“CONFIDENCE IN HIS BRETHREN”: THE ANTISLAVERY MOVEMENT AND
THEOLOGICAL EDUCATION IN THE NORTHWEST, 1848-1859
In 1856 the editors of Virginia’s Central Presbyterian claimed that the Old School had never formally endorsed the act of 1818, which had condemned slavery, arguing that the 1845 statement was the only official Old School position on slavery. Together with the Synod of South Carolina’s formal repudiation of the act of 1818, the increasingly proslavery rhetoric from the south pushed many northwestern Old Schoolers towards a stronger anti-slavery stance. By early 1857 Joseph G. Monfort, editor of the Presbyterian of the West, engaged in a violent dispute over slavery with Nathan L. Rice of the St. Louis Presbyterian.
Some feared that the radicalism of the Presbyterian of the West would rend the church, but William Engles assured his readers from Philadelphia that any agitation would be fruitless: “Old-school Presbyterians . . . have too much good judgment and common sense to entangle themselves in such unprofitable conflicts.” Likewise, when the New School American Presbyterian claimed that the Old School had a large and powerful anti-slavery movement headed by Monfort and the New Albany Seminary faculty, Engles replied that the northwestern men themselves had denied that “the slavery question had any thing to do with that movement.” As this chapter will show, Engles had been deceived. But he reveals the basic confidence in the brethren that characterized the Old School. Presbyterians expected that they could trust each other. As the church grew, it was no longer possible to know all of the other ministers in the denomination personally, placing mutual confidence and trust at a premium. Since the northwestern men had said that slavery was not an issue, Engles believed them.
Monfort’s Presbyterian of the West, however, was a different matter. As he continued to agitate on slavery throughout the summer of 1857, Engles needed to prove that the northwest was not really a hotbed of antislavery sentiment. So he published a letter from a minister in one of the largest presbyteries in Ohio claiming that “not one” of the ministers of that presbytery “approves of the course of the Presbyterian of the West, and all regret it exceedingly. But all love the good old Presbyterian.” Another large presbytery in Ohio was also increasingly dissatisfied with the Presbyterian of the West: “Some of them declare that they will act no longer as agents for that paper, nor would they take it themselves. I have long been a friend of the Presbyterian of the West,. . . but I must drop it; it is becoming such an abolition fire-brand.” Praising the Presbyterian as a major force in the formation of Old School identity, the letter concluded that throughout that portion of Ohio, “We are all satisfied with the Old-school Church as she is.” The same week, J. D. M. wrote from the northwest that while he rejoiced that he was not “immediately connected” with slavery, he still had “confidence in our Southern brethren,” that they would deal properly with the matter. He assured the Presbyterian’s readers that the Northwestern Seminary directors and professors were not interested in establishing an antislavery school, but a “school of the prophets” for the Northwest.
Nonetheless, the Presbyterian of the West continued to insist that a real antislavery movement was afoot in the northwest. In the light of the division of the Methodists, Baptists, and now New School Presbyterians, Engles could only wonder why Monfort desired schism: “Those churches which have entered into the fierce contest, have as the result reaped the bitter fruits of dissension, division, and decay.” Since the southern Presbyterian newspapers were content to leave the matter alone, he encouraged the northern press to do the same. In a parting jab, however, Engles pointed out that the Presbyterian continued to maintain high subscription rates in the northwest, suggesting that the Presbyterian of the West did not speak for the whole region.
The discussion of slavery among Old School Presbyterians in the northwest occurred largely in the context of their debates about theological education. Or was it that their discussion of theological education occurred largely in the context of their debates about slavery? While Old School Presbyterians were generally convinced that the catholicity of the church required them to work with each other across political and social boundaries, they could not ignore matters of conscience. There were very few abolitionists in the Old School churches of the northwest–and virtually none that were proslavery–but the fact that almost all believed in gradual emancipation did not reduce the tensions. All agreed that slavery was a great evil, but there was a huge difference between saying that gradual emancipation should start whenever the south was ready, and saying that it should start now.
The future of the Old School would not be determined by the south, but by the northwest. As the fastest-growing region of the church, the northwest was growing in influence in the church courts. But the definition of the northwest was changing. As late as 1840 the northwest was defined by the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers–ensuring that Kentucky and Missouri, though slave states, were still part of the region. By 1860, however, the railroads and the creation of Chicago had altered the shape of the west. For many, the Ohio River was now the border between the North and the South–and Kentuckians increasingly looked to Tennessee and Missouri for support.
1. A Feud Begins (New Albany Seminary, 1848-1849)
As recounted in chapter six, the Kentuckian Nathan Rice had been instrumental at the General Assembly of 1845 in passing a resolution declaring that slaveholding was not in itself a sin. In the Synod of Cincinnati Erasmus Darwin MacMaster was one of the leading opponents of Rice’s statement. While only nine of the one hundred members at the fall meeting of the 1845 Synod of Cincinnati voted to reject the General Assembly statement Rice had authored, the two names that led the list were Francis Monfort and Erasmus Darwin MacMaster.
The following year Nathan Rice and Samuel Ramsey Wilson became joint editors of Cincinnati’s Presbyterian of the West, which meant that both western newspapers were edited by Kentuckians. While they allowed very little material on the subject of slavery, Rice and Wilson declared their own position very plainly: “We are opposed to slavery. . . But we are no less opposed to the unscriptural and fanatical principles of ultra-abolitionists” who, they claimed, were actually retarding the progress of emancipation. Later that year they published a letter from E. N. Sawtell who gave an account of how some southerners were preparing slaves for freedom through the colonization societies. Rice and Wilson hoped that this would prompt northerners to “aid the efforts of the south to remove from our country this enormous evil.”
In 1848, Rice and MacMaster were the two finalists for the professorship of theology at New Albany Theological Seminary in Indiana. New Albany was designed to be as attractive as possible to the whole West–a seminary on the border between north and south, though on northern soil, with professors from each section. In this manner, it was hoped that the West could be held together. The original faculty consisted of John Matthews (1771-1848), a long-time pastor from Virginia (professor of theology, 1831-48), and James Wood (1799-1867), a pastor from western New York who had carefully documented the congregationalist origins of the Presbyterian churches in western New York in the 1830s (professor of Biblical Criticism and Oriental Literature, 1839-51). The election of Rice would continue the tradition of blending north and south in the seminary for the West, but a vote for MacMaster would mean that both professors would be northerners. The board initially chose Rice, but Rice was not convinced. He believed that New Albany was the wrong location for a seminary, and wanted to see the seminary merged with Western Seminary in Allegheny and moved to Cincinnati to provide a true Princeton of the West. So instead the Board gave the job to MacMaster.
One might think that one who had voted against the 1845 statement on slaveholding would be anathema in Kentucky, but with such a redoubtable champion as R. J. Breckinridge, MacMaster found his chief defenders in Kentucky. Kentucky Presbyterians, after all, were among the leaders of the Kentucky Emancipationists who were attempting to get emancipation written into the state’s constitution that year. R. J.’s brother, William L. Breckinridge, wrote a congratulatory letter to New Albany Seminary which was printed in the Presbyterian Herald, assuring the Board that “a better day is about to rise on the seminary.” In fact the main opposition to MacMaster came from Indiana, where he had previously served as president of Hanover College, and had angered the majority of Indiana Presbyterians through a covert attempt to close down their college and create a new institution, Madison University. Nathan Rice published a letter of complaint from David Monfort of Indiana in the Presbyterian of the West, which asserted that many who had previously supported the Seminary could no longer “conscientiously cooperate with it, under its present administration. . . . Almost all the young men within the bounds of this Synod, who are now pursuing a Theological course of study are at Princeton.” Rice turned down another letter from Monfort’s nephew, J. G. Monfort, who had been a trustee at Hanover College during the Madison University debacle, and for the most part, the Presbyterian of the West maintained a watchful silence with respect to New Albany Seminary. But plainly, slavery was not yet the defining issue in the northwest. At least for Old School Presbyterians in 1848, the Ohio River was still the center of the west–but not for long.
At first, it seemed indeed that a kindly providence was smiling upon New Albany. But as always, wherever MacMaster went, trouble was sure to follow. The finances of the seminary, which had brightened briefly, did not continue to improve. MacMaster had too many enemies. Indiana Presbyterians still mistrusted him due to his leadership in the Madison University fiasco. The Synod of Kentucky had raised a $20,000 endowment for the new professorship, but rather than give the money to the seminary, they chose to keep it under their control and simply use the interest to pay Daniel Stewart, plainly signaling their distrust of the seminary, and suggesting to other southwesterners that New Albany was not a permanent investment. One prominent ruling elder in Kentucky politely stated that there were many who could not support the election of MacMaster and therefore could not provide financial support. The Synod of Nashville decided to support the seminary, but by an 1849 vote of 13-11 urged it to transfer to a more central location (i.e., Kentucky). At the same time, the number of students remained in the low twenties. One writer in the Presbyterian Herald noted that the synods nominally supporting New Albany Theological Seminary had 41 students in Princeton, and another 29 in other seminaries, indicating that confidence in NATS remained low.
2. The Establishment of the Cincinnati Theological Seminary (1849-1853)
At the same time, some Old School Presbyterians were beginning to question the whole seminary system. Back in 1840 Robert J. Breckinridge, while pastoring in Baltimore, had suggested a “radical reform” of the seminary system to provide three major seminaries under the oversight of the General Assembly: one for the East, one for the South, and one for the West. These seminaries would focus on the professional education of ministers–not just their academic training. The present seminaries, Breckinridge claimed, simply teach “our young men to recite , rather than turning them out full of knowledge, thought, and force. . . . The old method of private study with some sensible, pious, and laborious pastor, is. . . much superior to these upstart seminaries.” Breckinridge suggested that the decline of orthodoxy in New England could be attributed, at least in part, to the apostasy of Harvard, Yale and Andover Seminaries from orthodox Calvinism. He pointed out that even Princeton had not stood firm against the New School at first. Therefore, Breckinridge called on the church to elect professors who were theologically orthodox and themselves eminent pastors and fine preachers: “After looking over the long list of professors in the theological seminaries of the United States, do you believe, gentlemen, that the churches ought to be, or would be satisfied with preachers equal to the bulk of these?. . . And we use the word preacher, because very many of the professors never were pastors, and can of course, know nothing and teach nothing practically, about that all important office.” Breckinridge urged the Assembly to elect men like Archibald Alexander and Samuel Miller–who had taught at Princeton since 1812 and 1813, respectively, though he reluctantly admitted that Charles Hodge had been a good choice in spite of his lack of pastoral experience.
Throughout the 1840s little had been done to implement Breckinridge’s ideas. In 1849, however, Nathan Rice thought that the time had come. In August of 1848 Rice had reviewed Gardiner Spring’s The Power of the Pulpit, suggesting that Spring was correct in attributing a certain decline in power and effectiveness in the pulpit to the rise of theological seminaries. Rice also agreed with Spring that the best remedy was to pay more careful attention to the pastoral care of seminarians, and that the best means toward that end was to elect successful pastors as professors in the seminaries, and to orient the curriculum to training pastors who can preach effective doctrinal and practical sermons.
The following year Rice began an independent seminary in Cincinnati. Since all the synods in the region were pledged to support NATS, this was immediately interpreted as a factious attack on the feeble seminary. “It is fraught with evil, and only evil,” a sorrowing W. W. Hill wrote. Rice quickly replied by setting forth his first public accusation that Erasmus Darwin MacMaster had abolitionist sympathies–plainly barring him, in Rice’s view, from any professorship in the merged seminary. In the Synod of Cincinnati MacMaster had “warmly advocated in that body, sentiments on the agitating subject of slavery, at war with the doctrine stated by the General Assembly of 1845.” So long as MacMaster “held views materially different from those held by the Presbyterian Church,” he should not serve as a professor in a Presbyterian institution. Rice declared the 1845 statement on slavery “one of the most important acts ever performed by her, and as constituting her emphatically the bond of Union to these United States. We deem it, therefore, of the first importance that our Professors of Theology take the Scriptural view of this subject. If they do not, we shall soon be again in trouble.
Rice saw this as an opportunity to show how a seminary should be operated, arguing that seminary professors should be active pastors, which would require seminaries to be placed in densely populated areas, to enable such a dual calling. For the next several months the periodical press was filled with commentary on Rice’s plan–though only his own paper supported it. J. G. Monfort, still stung by MacMaster’s betrayal of Hanover College, wrote that he still had hopes that MacMaster’s professorship would fail, but that if Cincinnati Seminary could be “manned and moneyed, I would say, go ahead.” Rice claimed that he received numerous letters from throughout Indiana encouraging the Cincinnati Seminary.
In April of 1850 the Presbytery of Cincinnati supported the creation of the new seminary, with only two dissenting votes. But while Rice’s seminary received little condemnation from the courts of the church, it also received little support. Only the Synod of Cincinnati said anything favorable, but Cincinnati, as one of the original three synods behind New Albany, was almost evenly divided between the two seminaries. In 1851 the synod gave a qualified endorsement, voting 62-19 “rejoice in the measure of [its] success…and hope that…it may prove eminently useful.”
Cincinnati Theological Seminary did not follow the Old School pattern for theological education. Indeed, it was not lost on many critical observers that Cincinnati Seminary had some striking resemblances to New School seminaries: lack of formal ecclesiastical oversight, urban environment, emphasis on professors also serving as pastors, and willingness to work together with Congregationalists. Rice even cited the flagship New School seminary, Union in New York, as an example of a flourishing seminary in an urban environment which reduced costs by having pastors teach (though he pointed out that the more conservative Associate Reformed seminaries also followed the latter practice).
By the fall of 1852, Cincinnati Theological Seminary had more students than New Albany, and was able to force a compromise. Rice proposed that the Synod of Cincinnati recommend the transfer of New Albany to the General Assembly. If the Assembly was given the authority to elect new professors, then Rice was willing to close the Cincinnati Seminary as well. One by one, the seven synods with oversight over New Albany (Cincinnati, Kentucky, Indiana, Northern Indiana, Illinois, Missouri and Nashville) concurred. A Kentucky correspondent noted that the synods of Illinois and Missouri had both urged the GA to move the seminary further west, and pointed out that “there may be prejudices in various parts of the Church against the Seminaries, both at New Albany and Cincinnati. The more independent and free from these former differences, the better.” By January of 1853 Rice gleefully announced that his whole purpose in starting the seminary in Cincinnati was accomplished: the General Assembly would take over theological education in the West. He opposed those who wished to attempt to blend the faculties of New Albany and Cincinnati, decrying any attention to parties or factions within the church. “The men should be chosen, who, after prayerful consideration, shall seem best qualified to fill the important offices--men of well-balanced minds, of decided piety, and of undoubted soundness, and ability to teach theology-to qualify young men for the ministry.” But given his role in the affair, Rice emphatically insisted that he did not want to be considered. He had other plans.
3. A New Seminary for the West? (Danville Theological Seminary, 1853-1856)
Those plans were announced in February of 1853 when Rice declared that he had taken a call to St. Louis. Cincinnati was no longer the center of the West. There had been some effort by Cyrus McCormick and others in Chicago to lure him northwards, but Rice was convinced that the future of the West remained along the Ohio River. Rice noted that the Presbyterian churches in St. Louis were working together to “secure the location of the Seminary in St. Louis, in accordance with the expressed wishes of the Synods of Illinois and Missouri.”
Rice’s sudden removal to St. Louis, even before the end of the term at the Cincinnati Theological Seminary, caused raised eyebrows in several quarters. The sudden removal occurred because Rice had become convinced that Cincinnati could not serve as the center of western Christianity, and that therefore he would be more useful at the front lines—in St. Louis. And since St. Louis was to be the future center of the West, where else should a Presbyterian seminary be located?
On March 14, 1853, just before Rice arrived in St. Louis, Missouri Presbyterians met in St. Louis to prepare their case for the General Assembly. Their rationale fit nicely with Rice’s agenda. The two leading figures in the meeting were ruling elders: the Honorable Hamilton Gamble (presiding judge of the Missouri Supreme Court, and later Governor of Missouri from 1861-1864) chaired the meeting and Charles D. Drake (a prominent St. Louis lawyer) presented the paper which set forth their rationale. The St. Louis vision was that the new seminary should be truly western, and therefore should not conflict with Allegheny Seminary. A St. Louis seminary would be located in the leading city of the West and would provide a light upon the hill to curb the vice, infidelity and false religion that endangered the future of the West. The urban environment would provide abundant opportunities for student preaching, as well as the social benefits of a larger city. Nonetheless, an astute Benjamin Gildersleeve (editor of the Watchman and Observer) noted that if the General Assembly put the seminary in St. Louis, New Albany would likely continue.
Indeed, just before the General Assembly met in May of 1853, the New Albany Seminary directors submitted to the wishes of the overseeing synods and drew up a resolution handing over the control of the seminary to the General Assembly—but with a new condition: the seminary could not be moved from New Albany. The actions of the synods, however, contained no such condition, and the General Assembly had little interest in keeping the seminary in New Albany.
The question of a theological seminary for the West was the prominent item on the General Assembly’s agenda for 1853. The Assembly elected as moderator the Rev. Dr. John Young of Kentucky (president of Centre College in Danville), who promptly appointed his friend and long-time New Albany supporter, Robert J. Breckinridge (also of Kentucky) as the chairman of the committee on seminaries. The committee examined the various locations that had been proposed–St. Louis, New Albany, Nashville, Tennessee, Peoria, Illinois, and Danville, Kentucky–and recommended that the seminary be transferred to Danville.
Once on the floor of General Assembly, Professor James Wood of New Albany was the first to speak. He pled the seminary’s case for retaining the present location, but with little effect. After several speeches supporting different locations, William L. and Robert J. Breckinridge set forth the case for Danville, both because Kentucky was in the best financial position to fund a seminary, and because the General Assembly could show that the Mason-Dixon line did not determine the church’s politics. Breckinridge claimed that Peoria was too little known, and that Nashville was too close to Columbia Seminary in South Carolina. St. Louis had made a liberal offer, but “in view of the condition of the church in the State of Missouri, the efforts to found the Seminary there would tend to paralyze the church in that State for some years.” Although he had previously supported New Albany, he had become convinced that after twenty-five years it was a “dead failure.” As the Richmond correspondent said, “Dr. B spoke upon the question for more than two hours, the effort was a powerful one, and the appeal in behalf of Danville was truly eloquent.” R. J. Breckinridge analyzed the “history, present condition and prospects of the New Albany Seminary. . . in a most ludicrous strain, which excited a considerable degree of mirth in the Assembly.” He then turned to Danville and its advantages, pointing to the considerable financial resources of the Synod ($60,000 had already been pledged by the Synod of Kentucky–including the $20,000 theological fund that had previously been used to support a professor at New Albany), as well as its central location for drawing upon both northern and southern students and support.
Several speakers attempted to contradict this speech, but with little success. Dr. Wood refused to admit that New Albany was a failure. Samuel B. McPheeters defended St. Louis, calling on the Assembly to consider not merely the wants of 1853, but the future when St. Louis would be the population center of the west. He urged that the city would be the best place to learn human nature. But any hope for St. Louis was dashed when Mr. Harbeson, a fellow Missourian defended Danville, by claiming that he did not “believe in students studying human nature in large cities; they were too apt to practise it.” But even as several advocates of St. Louis rose to address the moderator, Judge John Fine of Ogdensburgh Presbytery called for the previous question, and Danville prevailed 122-78-33 over St. Louis and New Albany.
Most observers expected that New Albany Seminary would shut down, as ordered by the Assembly–but on July 7, the Presbyterian of the West printed New Albany’s manifesto declaring their intent to maintain the seminary. The Board claimed that the Synods had never specifically authorized the transfer of the location of the seminary. Editor Thorpe was not convinced. The Synods had plainly intended an unqualified transfer, allowing the Assembly to do whatever it wished with New Albany. Nonetheless, Thorpe was not wholly unsympathetic to the continuing seminary at New Albany. Many understood that many northern students would not cross the Ohio River for theological training, and they were willing to encourage New Albany to continue in order to provide seminary education for them.
On the other hand, the Presbyterian of the West feared that the Danville arrangement would not work. Since New Albany was still in operation (with the support of the majorities of the Cincinnati, Indiana, and Northern Indiana synods), and the far western synods of Illinois and Missouri were upset that the new seminary was so far east, Thorpe and other contributors to the Presbyterian of the West feared that the new seminary would find little support. Just because the Assembly had placed the seminary in Kentucky didn’t mean that northwesterners had to support it! “Hence the demand which Dr. Young and others of the South make upon us of implicit obedience to the act of the Assembly, because it is the act of the Assembly, is anti-Presbyterian and cannot be allowed.” Therefore, many concluded, Danville would be the seminary for the southwest, leaving New Albany free to continue in the northwest.
In October MacMaster and the New Albany directors issued a pamphlet defending their actions against what they considered a Kentucky conspiracy. MacMaster claimed that Robert J. Breckinridge had orchestrated the whole affair. Why was it that Young organized the committee on seminaries “to include no man from all the Northwest, and no man friendly to the New Albany Seminary, while two, including the Chairman, are taken from the vicinity of Danville”? Further, MacMaster claimed that Breckinridge, as chairman, had suppressed and misrepresented the claims of New Albany, then Young, as moderator, had prevented the defenders of New Albany from gaining the floor of the Assembly, and then finally Breckinridge was rewarded for his machinations by being elected professor of theology in the new institution! New Albany, MacMaster argued, was under no obligation whatsoever to disband.
Young replied in a tone of mock sympathy, suggesting that MacMaster should not be held responsible for his false charges, due to “his pedantry, arrogance, and other mental infirmities. . . . We attribute his moral aberrations, in part, to something peculiar in the structure of his mind--and for this, Christian charity ought to make allowance.” After refuting the conspiracy charge, Young gave MacMaster a parting jab: “He has presided over three colleges and a Theological Seminary. All of them have, unfortunately, sunk under his administration; and many of the friends of these various institutions have charged him with being the cause of their ruin.” Young’s point was clear: so long as New Albany stood by MacMaster, Kentucky would have nothing to do with it.
Not surprisingly, the General Assembly of 1854 urged the two seminaries to refrain from interfering with each other. After further debate, Rev. McClung offered a resolution of non-interference. After defending the need for a northwestern seminary, he insisted that abolition was no threat: “When any body brings up abolition in their Synod, they say to him, just show us where Paul turned any body out of the Church for being a slaveholder, and we will turn any Presbyterian out that holds slaves; and then we clap down the trap-door of the previous question upon him. (Laughter).” Using humor to try to defuse a tense situation, he referred to Breckinridge as the barber of the Old School, “New Albany came in his way last year, and I thought when he was done with it, it was the cleanest shaved thing I ever saw (Laughter).” “General Assembly,” Presbyterian 24.22 (June 3, 1854) 85. But even the promise to leave New Albany alone gave little comfort to the seminary’s supporters. From 1853 until 1857, a total of 33 students attended New Albany (mostly born in Ohio and Indiana, and educated at Hanover and Miami). Therefore, not only did Danville draw away the entire southwest (not a single southwesterner attended New Albany during these years), but they also drew half as many northwesterners as New Albany (15 graduates from Hanover and Miami attended Danville from 1853-1857).
Danville’s attempt to reach out to the southwest, however, was challenged by Columbia Theological Seminary. While Columbia was formally under the oversight of the synods of South Carolina and Georgia, it trained many students from Alabama and Mississippi as well. In 1857 Columbia sought to establish a formal relationship with the Synod of Mississippi. The Presbyterian Banner and Advocate of Pittsburgh reported that James Henley Thornwell had presented the case for Columbia “with all his admitted eloquence and his equally well known opposition to the General Assembly.” E. T. Baird responded in favor of Danville, “urging its claims upon the Synod, and forcibly presenting the argument in favor of the Assembly’s control in the case of theological institutions.” When the Synod declined the partnership with Columbia, editor David McKinney rejoiced that “this adherence of the Synod of Mississippi to the Assembly, is an indication that sectionalism is not wholly to triumph at the South.” The Southern Presbyterian protested that this placed both Columbia and Dr. Thornwell in a “false light,” by suggesting that Thornwell was “habitually, and on principle, opposed to the General Assembly.” The editor, H. B. Cunningham, insisted that Thornwell was entirely within his rights to believe that theological education should be conducted at the synodical level. As for the charge of being sectional, the only sectionalism was a question of the south versus the west (not the south versus the General Assembly). Columbia Seminary, he insisted, was only arguing that Mississippi was more naturally connected to South Carolina than to Kentucky. And as for McKinney’s insinuation that Columbia Seminary was opposed to the Assembly’s stance on slavery, he insisted that “Even on the vexed question of the day, ecclesiastically considered, it teaches nothing at variance with what we understand to be the position of the church.”
The New Albany men, however, were not convinced that Columbia understood the position of the church correctly, but they had few resources to communicate their concerns. Their seminary was poorly attended and supported, and since the failure of the Christian Monthly Magazine in 1845, they had no forum for communication. Therefore in the fall of 1854, the Presbytery of New Albany resolved to support a new weekly paper for the northwest. Since the west already had three newspapers (the Presbyterian Herald of Louisville–right across the Ohio River from New Albany–the Presbyterian of the West in Cincinnati, and the St. Louis Presbyterian), Nathan Rice found it preposterous that New Albany Presbytery would seek to create yet another. “Local interests and prejudices have done and are doing more to cripple the energies of the Presbyterian Church in the West, than all other causes. It has been impossible to secure union either in building up institutions or in sustaining newspapers. This is the more remarkable, since there exist amongst us no theological differences.” As far as Rice was concerned, this growing anti-slavery subculture was a threat to the peace of both the church and the nation.
But rather than start a new paper for the northwest, the New Albany men set their sights on taking control of the one western paper north of the Ohio River. While students and funding remained hard to find, New Albany finally gained a new friend in 1854 with the buyout of the Presbyterian of the West. Whereas the editorial staff in 1853, under the influence of Nathan Rice, had signed a protest at synod against the continuing existence of New Albany, by the end of 1854 the Presbyterian of the West had passed into the hands of the Rev. Joseph G. Monfort, who was rapidly becoming the leading voice of the pro-New Albany wing of the northwest.
In many respects, Monfort’s friendship with New Albany was surprising. He had joined the opposition to MacMaster after the Hanover College debacle, and had been one of the leading voices in opposing MacMaster’s election to New Albany Seminary just six years before. Now, however, Monfort found in MacMaster a kindred spirit. Over the next decade Monfort would take on virtually every Old School newspaper in the country in his vigorous (and sometimes vituperative) defense of MacMaster and the principles of the new Northwest. Old controversies were set aside as the anti-slavery cause brought them together.
But even with Monfort’s support, nothing could preserve New Albany as the location for the seminary of the Northwest. For one thing, it was too close to Danville Seminary; for another, it was simply too close to Kentucky. The old ideal of a seminary for the whole west that would unite North and South on northern soil was gone. The old Northwest, of which the Ohio River formed the center–was giving way to the new Northwest, of which the Ohio River formed its southern boundary.
Indicative of this change was the addition of Dr. Thomas E. Thomas to the faculty of New Albany also in 1854. In southern eyes, Thomas (the former editor of the short-lived anti-slavery Christian Monthly Magazine) was “a conspicuous leader of the Abolition party in Ohio.” The Southern Presbyterian feared that with his addition, the “New Albany Seminary may become an engine for the propagation of Abolitionism in the Northwest. Dr. McMaster, another Professor, is not free from the suspicion of a similar taint.” But just as southern writers moved toward a more open pro-slavery stance as the 1850s progressed, so also northwestern writers became more openly anti-slavery.
4. J. G. Monfort, the Presbyterian of the West and the Rise of a Vocal Anti-Slavery Movement in the Northwest
The label of “abolitionist” was not strictly accurate for Thomas, Monfort, or MacMaster. Most anti-slavery Old Schoolers were still hoping that their southern brethren would find a way to end slavery. As southern Presbyterians began to suggest that slavery was a positive good, some northern emancipationists attempted to hold fast to the 1818 deliverance, but with greater emphasis on the conditional aspect of that statement: slaveholding was not sinful–so long as the slaveholder was preparing his slaves for their eventual status as freemen. They could agree with the Assembly’s distinction between the definite evil of slavery and the moral ambiguity of slaveholding–but the Assembly’s refusal to push southerners toward emancipation frustrated them.
By the end of Rice’s editorship in 1853, some anti-slavery material was appearing in the Presbyterian of the West. The Rev. Hugh S. Fullerton, pastor of Chillicothe Presbytery’s Salem Church wrote a defense of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Rice had scorned Harriet Beecher Stowe’s best-seller as a novel (and in some Old School circles the genre itself was enough to condemn it as worthless without paying attention to its content) that avoided the real evils of slavery and simply sought to raise the passions of northerners. Fullerton argued that the book focused precisely on the real evil: that slavery was a “horrible despotism.” Praising Rice for belaboring “the Catholics most manfully because they are despotic in their principles,” Fullerton asked, “what warrant have you in the word of God for opposing one kind of despotism more than another?” If Stowe had attacked slavery in the wrong way, Fullerton asked, “O! that my brother Rice would attack it in the right way and show us how!” The reason why abolitionism has become infidel is because the “American church as a body has set herself against the movement.” The anti-slavery movement has tried to overthrow domestic despotism “by proclaiming those simple truths set forth in the American declaration of Independence, and showing that those truths are consistent with the word of God.” Unless the church gets on board with this position, “slavery and infidelity will continue to fatten and grow.”
Under Monfort, the Presbyterian of the West regularly published anti-slavery material, becoming the first weekly Old School newspaper to attack the conservative stance of the church. Monfort, though, was no radical abolitionist, and opposed the division of the church. When the Christian church and the Illinois Methodists divided in 1855, he warned Old School Presbyterians against divisive tactics. Nonetheless, when Robert J. Breckinridge attacked Senator Charles Sumner’s speeches on Kansas, Monfort argued that the redoubtable Kentuckian had misunderstood Sumner’s approach. The free soil movement would let the south end slavery by itself–but would resolutely oppose introducing it to the territories. Monfort was troubled that “the conservative party in the South is constantly growing less. Men who have labored for emancipation are yielding to the clamors of proslavery men in favor of the extension of slavery.” The following summer, after the caning of Charles Sumner by Preston Brooks, Monfort published a letter from the “pastor of the largest church in our connection in the Free States of the North-west,” and suggested that this represented the unanimous opinion of northwestern ministers. “L” blamed the north for the caning of Sumner: “How much of the guilt and disgrace of this state of things attaches to men who call themselves anti-slavery, but conservatives, who profess to be opposed to slavery, but yet keep their mouths shut on the question, or open them only to censure the defenders of liberty.” The Kansas disasters as well should be “traced to the silent, speechless acquiescence of thousands of professing Christians who through fear of man, prejudice, or wilful ignorance, have lent their influence in this way to swell the catalogue of enormity and crime!” Slavery must be “confined as a local institution to its own limits,” or else the nation would be judged by God.
Frustrated that so few Old School papers would speak on the Kansas question, Monfort continued to urge Presbyterians to work for a free soil Kansas, and frequently asked his fellow editors why they remained silent on the moral issues surrounding Kansas. If emancipation was a moral question–and Old School papers from Philadelphia to Louisville regularly urged that–why not free soil in Kansas? That fall, when Governor Adams of South Carolina publicly endorsed the reopening of the slave trade, Monfort howled with horror and outrage. Whereas most Old School editors refrained from political commentary almost entirely, Monfort declared only that “we shall not meddle with politics, except when politics shall meddle with us. Upon all subjects bearing upon morals and religion, in Church or State, we will utter our sentiments freely, and we hope prudently, yet none the less fearlessly and independently.”
With bleeding Kansas and the South Carolina discussion of reopening the slave trade in the background, Monfort printed Erasmus Darwin MacMaster’s remarks on slavery at the Miami University literary society: “On slavery, where it already exists, I have seldom publicly spoken or written. . . I have been inclined to be still before God, and patient. . . . Second, because not living among a slaveholding people, I have thought it less my vocation to discuss this subject than evils existing among ourselves.” While generally willing to let southerners work out their own difficulties regarding the elimination of slavery in the South, MacMaster insisted that northerners should speak plainly against the extension of slavery to the territories.
In 1857 Monfort set forth his argument for how the statements on slavery in 1845 and 1818 could be held together. The testimonies of 1787, 1815 and 1818 declare that slavery “is sinful; it can not exist without sin. There is always guilt somewhere, when any one is held under the oppressions and exposures of slavery.” But 1845 does not contradict this. Monfort pointed out that “there is not a word in approbation of slavery to be found it it.” It simply states that slaveholding in the south does not bar one from membership. “Our church does not think, and we do not think that every slaveholder should be excommunicated.” If 1845 is understood in harmony with 1818 (as he suggested that the statement of 1846 required, when it reaffirmed all previous General Assembly statements on slavery), then “in every instance of slavery humanity is outraged, and God's law violated, but men are often so connected with the system, that the guilt of oppression does not rest on them but on others--individual or the commonwealth.” Therefore so long as slaveholders are working towards emancipation, they should not be disciplined.
But even Monfort was considered too soft by some in the Northwest. Veritas wrote that the action of 1845 “is essentially defective on the general subject, and utterly destitute of the decided Anti-slavery tone, style, terms, spirit and aim of the former testimonies of 1787 and 1818.” Its declaration that slaveholding was not sinful retained none of the qualifications of earlier statements. The 1818 statement had called on all Presbyterians to work for the end of slavery. The 1845 statement politely avoided the issue. For Veritas, the very fact that the 1846 General Assembly felt compelled to say that 1845 was not intended to revoke 1818 reveals that it in fact did.
Hugh S. Fullerton agreed. “The injunction of our Assembly urging us to do all we can for the abolition of slavery, is now practically, a dead letter.” Troubled that the Old School had lost fellowship with the Congregational churches over slavery, he pointed out that the only northern church they had fellowship with was the “Reformed Dutch. . . a body as frigidly conservative on the slave question as we are ourselves.” Eschewing radical abolitionism, he agreed that the church could not cut off all slaveholders, because this would be “ultra, unscriptural, and absurd.” But Fullerton suggested that if the New School purged itself of slavery, “we will think it our duty to seek great comfort and usefulness for ourselves and people, by taking our stand with them.”
Fullerton argued that if southerners wanted to change slave laws, they would have by now. He prided himself on being the first to petition the Ohio legislature “for the repeal of our black school laws,” which had forbidden blacks to attend the common schools. His initial petition had been rejected, but over several years, “that unjust law, and many others of the same kind, were repealed. And now colored people have their free schools all over the state, supported from the public treasury, just as other schools are supported, and under the supervision of the same directors.” The continued existence of slavery in the South could only mean that Christians wanted it to continue. And if this was the case, then according to the 1818 statement on slavery, then “in every case of slaveholding in our Church there ought to be a judicial investigation, just as there should be and would be in every case of drunkenness.” If forced to hold slaves, slaveholders should be viewed as innocent–otherwise, Fullerton argued, they should be disciplined.
Monfort replied that while the South was indeed growing worse, he was optimistic regarding the future of anti-slavery in the northern Old School. Further, he suggested that Fullerton did not adequately distinguish between slavery and slaveholding. The former is a sin, the latter not necessarily. “We can not censure all slaveholders.” Clericus agreed, insisting that “slavery” did not exist in the church, only slaveholders. Further, he hesitated to presume guilt. Given that the southerners had voted for the statements of 1818 and generally agreed with the harmonization of 1846, Monfort insisted that northerners were bound to assume that southern Old School Presbyterians “do not approve slavery, that they are not slaveholders by choice, and we must accept the burden of proving the contrary, in every case in which we would exclude them from the Church.”
That fall, as Armstrong and Van Rensselaer began their debate in the Presbyterian Magazine, the presbyteries of Wooster, Marion, and Richland joined Chillicothe in strong anti-slavery statements. When the Presbyterian called them abolitionists, Monfort objected–pointing out that none of these three presbyteries called for the discipline of all slaveholders. Instead, Monfort argued that the northwest was reacting against the southerners’ retreat from the historic testimony of the church–and now, he feared, among northerners, too.
As evidence for the apostasy of the south, Monfort published an article by a member of the 1818 General Assembly, who had served in the South for more than forty years. This elder statesman had tried to get his article published in the Southern Presbyterian Review, but it was refused without comment. He argued that the testimony of the previous sixty years made it clear that the Presbyterian church says that
African servitude, as practised among us, is a grievous wrong; that it is depriving man of his natural and inalienable rights; that it is contrary to the spirit of the gospel; altogether inconsistent with the law of loving our neighbor as ourself, and wholly irreconcilable with the rule of doing as we would be done by; and the Church urges and enjoins it upon all in her communion to use all prudent and proper means for putting an end to Slavery and promoting its abolition throughout America and the world.
The author, undoubtedly Aaron Leland of Columbia Theological Seminary, the only living southerner who had been a member of the 1818 General Assembly, pointed to previous articles where the editors of the Southern Presbyterian Review had denied that liberty is the natural and inalienable right of man, and he claimed that the south was clashing directly with the plain testimony of the General Assembly. Arguing that Christ had laid down “great moral, practical principles by which all his people must be governed,” he insisted that slavery fundamentally contradicted those principles.
Such articles continued to encourage northwesterners to think that perhaps a silent majority in the south only awaited assistance from the north to throw off the domination of slavery. James S. Fullerton, wrote from Mount Vernon, Iowa, to encourage speedy action. Complaining of little progress towards the abolition of slavery in the forty years since 1818, Fullerton suggested that the General Assembly should “fix upon some set time, (say January 1864 or 5) on or before which, this work must be accomplished (at least as far as the Church is concerned). If some of our members are too poor to place their slaves beyond the reach of slave laws, let the Church be called upon to raise the funds needed for this purpose, and we hot bloods will be silent.” Denying that General Assembly utterances bound the church, Fullerton openly rejected the statement of 1845.
Monfort resisted such a stance: if northerners rejected 1845, then southerners could reject 1818 with impunity. In fact, within weeks of Fullerton’s article, the New Orleans’ True Witness argued that the 1818 statement “was taken before the question of slavery was properly understood, and at a time when the views there expressed were the sentiments of the country, generally, North and South.” But, as Richmond McInnis argued, “the Old School Presbyterian Church has never reindorsed the action of 1818, and no man, with proper views and feelings, seeing to know the mind of our Church, would ever make this charge. . . . Whatever may be the general language of 1846, it is evident from the above facts that the action of 1818 was never reindorsed by the Old School General Assembly.” With both sides moving quickly in opposing directions, the future looked bleak for conservatives who wished to hold the church and nation together.
5. The Synodical Northwestern Theological Seminary (1856-1859)
Meanwhile, Nathan Rice, now pastor of the Central Presbyterian Church in St. Louis and editor of the St. Louis Presbyterian, kept trying to pacify the West through his conservative anti-slavery stance. Commenting on eastern abolitionist efforts, Rice suggested that most eastern battles were fought where slavery “does not exist, and amongst a people who can do nothing whatever to abolish it.” After a four-month trip to New York City and New England to attend the General Assembly of 1856 and the Rhode Island Evangelical Consociation, Rice reported to his St. Louis readers that while “the great mass of the people” were simply going about their own business, “there is, in every part of the country, excitement enough to call forth demagogues, whose only chance to become famous, is to ride into office upon some hobby.” Nonetheless, Rice took heart from the stand of Old School editors. The Central Presbyterian had written against mob law, and the Presbyterian of the West warned against division. “Whilst Presbyterian ministers have never degraded their sacred office by meddling in party politics, they have ever been found ready to speak out boldly, when the evil passions of men have brought the country into peril.” With the election of the Democrat James Buchanan in 1856, Rice jubilantly declared that “the crisis has passed.” Little did he know that while the national crisis may have passed, an ecclesiastical one was about to explode.
In the fall of 1856 MacMaster, Monfort, and the seminary board announced their intention to move the New Albany seminary to Chicago. MacMaster’s pamphlet pointed out that the northwest alone was nine times the size of Scotland, contained around five million inhabitants, but had only 285 ministers for its 464 churches. With fully one-third of northwestern pulpits vacant, the need for ministers was desperate. The New Albany campus would shut down temporarily in the spring of 1857 until the seminary reopened in Chicago. A new board was organized to include all the interested synods of the northwest, but the exclusion of Missouri (which had formerly been one of New Albany’s controlling synods–although it had not sent anyone to board meetings since 1853) led to a howl of protest from Rice’s St. Louis Presbyterian. “Dr. McMasters, we learn, stated to the Synod of Illinois, that the Synod of Missouri had taken such a position in relation to the Seminary, that it would not have been ‘decent’ to ask its co-operation.” But, Rice complained, Missouri was one of the seven synods united in control, and contributed more to its funds than either of the northwestern synods (likely a reference to Iowa and Wisconsin). While it neglected to appoint directors (as did the Synod of Illinois) it had not given up the right to do so. The Synod had never identified with another seminary but desired to remain in connection with the Northwestern synods. While it is true that the Synod of Missouri had never formally renounced its control, it had passed a resolution questioning the continuation of the seminary after the creation of Danville Seminary, which Monfort interpreted as a hostile gesture. At the Board meeting in November, the Rev. Samuel J. Baird (a New Albany graduate, pastoring in Muscatine, Iowa) recommended that the new board of the North West Theological Seminary allow the Missouri presbyteries to send representatives, but Monfort’s objections prevailed. In the eyes of MacMaster and Monfort, Missouri was no more a part of the northwest than Kentucky.
Therefore, when Monfort began publishing regular anti-slavery statements in the Presbyterian of the West the following year, Rice turned his attention to his former newspaper. He feared that Monfort’s defense was “far more injurious than the charge he repels,” in that it cast doubt on the meaning of the 1845 statement that Rice had so carefully crafted. After defending the 1845 statement, and its consistency with the 1818 declaration, he concluded that “Every one can see, that if the views expressed by Dr. M were to prevail, a renewed agitation would be the inevitable result.” Connecting the anti-slavery discussion with the seminary debates, Rice added that “We feel the more bound to say what we have said because this discussion in the Pres. of the West, stands evidently in close connection with the plan by which the Synod of Missouri has been tricked out of its rights.” Arguing that Monfort was a closet abolitionist, Rice pointed out that Monfort defined slavery as “a heinous and scandalous sin, calling for the discipline of the church upon any of her members who are really chargeable with its guilt.” Ignoring Monfort’s distinction between slavery and slaveholding, Rice feared that Monfort, MacMaster, and Thomas E. Thomas were intent on turning the Northwestern Theological Seminary into “a thoroughly Abolitionist Seminary,” to “train young men to become agitators and destroyers of the peace of the Church. Let those who love the peace and unity of the Presbyterian Church, at once throw their decided influence against this unhallowed attempt to divide its counsels and destroy its efficiency.”
Throughout the spring and summer of 1857 the skirmishes continued between Monfort and Rice. Monfort argued that MacMaster and Thomas had both affirmed the General Assembly’s statements and should not be considered abolitionists. In reply Rice pointed out that Thomas had written in his Review of Junkin, that professed Christians “who hold their fellow-men as slaves,” were “guilty of a sin which demands the cognizance of the Church; and after due admonition, the application of discipline.”
But Rice’s polemics had not yet persuaded the rest of the church. In the east, Presbyterians generally joined Cortlandt Van Rensselaer (editor of the Presbyterian Magazine, and moderator of the General Assembly of 1857) in applauding the decision to move the seminary to Chicago. While Van Rensselaer wished that they had corresponded with Missouri to ensure harmony, and objected to the eagerness of “some of the Western brethren” for a new deliverance on slavery, he did not see “any proof that our respected brethren of the new Seminary have any desire to introduce on our records a contrary testimony.” At this point, most in the east and south were willing to believe the best concerning MacMaster and attributed Rice’s antics to their personal quarrel.
As evidence of this, Van Rensselaer published an open letter from an anonymous western ruling elder assuring the church that the seminary posed no threat. The elder urged the advantages of synodical control, arguing that General Assembly decisions were unduly engineered by a small circle of influential figures. Under the synodical system, even the smallest presbytery in the west would be represented on the board of the seminary. Further, the controlling synods would have personal knowledge of the students that the General Assembly never could. The objections to synodical control, this elder asserted, were really directed against professors MacMaster and Thomas and their “abstract views of slavery.” But have the seventy alumni of New Albany Seminary turned out as agitators of the church on the subject of slavery? And even if the seminary were overtly anti-slavery, the professors of Columbia Theological Seminary in South Carolina had articulated a new “philosophy of human society” promoting slavery (Thornwell) and condemning colonization (Adger). If a synodically-controlled seminary could have pro-slavery professors, in spite of the 1818 testimony against slavery, why could not the church tolerate a synodically-controlled seminary with anti-slavery professors? The elder concluded by pleading for mutual confidence in the brethren, in spite of political differences:
As in the political union between the States, the strength of the bond consists much in the lightness with which it bears upon the distant parts, and the amount of freedom it allows for the maintenance of local policy and opinion, so is the Church safe, and strong in the affections of her children every where, as she shall refrain from imposing, by direct or indirect means, any iron rule upon our modes of thought and expression, on questions not involving sin, nor tending to a departure from vital truth. Only while the Church is content with the great doctrines of her time-honored confession and catechisms, and her principles of government, as the chief bond of union, can she expect to embrace harmoniously, the Presbyterians in every section of this vast country, under one General Assembly.
Once again, but this time from the “radical” wing, Old School Presbyterians revealed their fervent desire for the preservation of a single orthodoxy in the face of multiple visions of how that orthodoxy would be embedded in regional cultures.
The Louisville Presbyterian Herald (still edited by Rev. W. W. Hill) feared that these multiple visions could not withstand such “exciting issues.” Hill noted that New School journals, such as the American Presbyterian, were claiming that a powerful body of anti-slavery Old Schoolers in the northwest were uniting behind the Presbyterian of the West and the new North West Theological Seminary. But he dismissed this report, suggesting that Monfort’s paper had little support and citing Rice’s St. Louis Presbyterian assurance that the seminary, “whatever may have been the purposes of a few individuals, whenever it goes into operation,” would not be “an abolitionist institution.” In the same issue, he noted that Rice had been called to the North Presbyterian Church in Chicago–which would be a good thing for the church in the northwest and especially for the infant seminary!
Six weeks later, Presbyterian newspaper readers learned that the North West Board had received a letter from MacMaster defending himself from accusations regarding his views of slavery. The charge that he desired the seminary to be an anti-slavery institution was preposterous. “Slavery may have been thought of along with many other things, but the story that the Seminary was designed to be an agency specially for the agitation or discussion of slavery is so absurd that those who told it must have counted largely on the credulity of their hearers.” The seminary should have no relation to slavery
different from those which it has to twenty or forty other acknowledged evils of like character and magnitude, and to which the church and the country of the North West stand in a like relation as to slavery. It certainly is not the business of a theological seminary to organize agencies and institute measures for the removal of slavery, or of any other evil, moral, or political, or ecclesiastical, or domestic, existing in society, but to teach young men how to expound and apply the Scriptures, and to fulfill the work of a gospel ministry.
The Board hoped that this statement would suffice to allay concerns and restore harmony in the northwest.
At the same meeting the Board elected both Rice and MacMaster to the faculty of the seminary. The minutes were published in several papers, revealing that of the 18 board members present, only 11 had voted for Rice (all the members from the older synods of Cincinnati, Indiana, and Northern Indiana; seven of the eight members from Illinois, Wisconsin, Chicago and Iowa did not vote). Monfort had engineered the election of Rice as professor of ecclesiastical history in hope of reaching a compromise to permit the seminary to go forward. Likewise, to boost confidence in the proposed seminary, the Board passed resolutions allowing General Assembly vetoes on Board decisions. Two weeks later the Presbyterian Herald published a letter from a correspondent urging Rice to accept the call to North Church, Chicago (revealing that Rice would receive a salary of $5,000–including $2,000 from a single, unnamed individual).
Rice replied first to the seminary. He professed astonishment at his election, given his criticisms of the enterprise. The editor of the Presbyterian of the West (Monfort) had charged him as an enemy of the seminary, a sizeable minority of the Board had not concurred with his election, and the Board still refused to accept complete General Assembly control. Rice felt constrained to decline. The church, he believed, should not “try to plaster over” divisions, but should find any errors and correct them. In particular, MacMaster’s letter to the board was too ambiguous for Rice, and he hinted of evidence that MacMaster privately believed the General Assembly to be controlled by slavery. A seminary professor, he declared, must not have any private agendas or else he will lose the confidence of the church. Since the seminary could raise no money for a whole year, Rice was convinced that only General Assembly oversight could restore that confidence.
Shortly thereafter he accepted the call to North Presbyterian Church in Chicago. A decade after he had first tried to persuade Rice to go to Chicago, Cyrus Hall McCormick (now the leading businessman and a prominent ruling elder in Chicago) had succeeded. Four years earlier, Rice had gone to St. Louis in an attempt to draw the western seminary to that location. Now he belatedly realized that Chicago held the future of the west and hoped that it was not too late for his presence in Chicago to sway the city toward a more conservative stance.
Any hope of reopening the seminary in 1857 was dashed. With the panic of 1857 tightening many pockets and concerns over the position of the proposed seminary, no one would contribute any significant amount of money. And any hope of reopening in 1858 was soon quashed as well.
Rice’s declension of the professorship had referred in passing to “private letters” containing MacMaster’s “true” views of slavery. MacMaster, who had studiously avoided engaging Rice in any personal controversy, published “A Card” complaining that “for nine years that individual has been allowed to print and publish, in his newspaper, and to utter otherwise about me, whatever he supposed would serve his own ends, without any notice from me; nor do I now make any reply to him.” This card declared that if Rice had obtained such a letter “in violation of an obligation which all honourable men instinctively feel to be imperatively binding upon them,” MacMaster would now exempt him from the obligation to respect private letters, and give “full liberty to publish any private letter or letters, which I have written to him, or to them, or to any one of them, concerning the affairs of the Seminary,” but only so long as he would publish the whole letter–not just excerpts.
Rice, in transit to Chicago, was not editing a newspaper at that moment, so he published the letters in a lengthy pamphlet, defending his course over the previous eight years, claiming that Monfort’s continued harassment had forced his hand. Reciting his old grievances, he claimed that MacMaster’s views of slavery were “unscriptural, and tending to agitation, and division of the Church.” At the Synod of Cincinnati in 1845, MacMaster had allied himself with Thomas E. Thomas, a self-proclaimed abolitionist, and then welcomed Thomas onto the faculty of New Albany Seminary in 1854. “And is it surprising that I should be unwilling to have a professor of theology in our Seminary, who, as I believed, aimed to introduce, however cautiously and slowly, new terms of membership, which would divide our church, as it has divided others?” Denying any personal quarrel, Rice insisted that he opposed MacMaster’s professorship simply and solely for ecclesiastical reasons.
Further, Rice pointed out that it was Monfort–not himself–who had raised the connection between the seminary and slavery by combining a defense of MacMaster with an attack on the 1845 resolution on slavery in the Presbyterian of the West. “It was impossible to resist the conviction that the synod of Missouri had been excluded, simply because it was a slaveholding state, and that it was the design of the Professors elect to make the Seminary a place for inculcating views of slavery which would distract and divide the church; and then it was that attention was publicly called to this phase of things.”
But it was only after arriving in Chicago that Rice found that his suspicions were warranted by hard evidence. Ruling elder Charles A. Spring (1800-189?) of Chicago had been a warm supporter of MacMaster and an avid reader of Monfort’s Presbyterian of the West. Until recently, he had viewed Rice as actuated by a “bitter uncompromising spirit.” A director of the new seminary, he had been chosen as agent of the board for 1857 to raise funds in the northwest. In May and July of 1857 he had received two letters from MacMaster encouraging him in his task, but the content of these two letters had wrought a complete revolution in his views. Now he came to Rice with these letters, which he claimed were not confidential, but public letters from a professor to a director of the seminary regarding matters of public interest.
The first letter accused the “hierarchs” of the southern wing of the church (he named Thornwell, Adger, Armstrong, Smiley and Stuart Robinson) of abandoning the traditional Presbyterian doctrine that slavery “is a great evil” and should prudently be brought to an end. The new doctrine claimed that slavery was a great good and should be perpetuated–purged merely of its worst abuses. So far, MacMaster had said nothing that would raise eyebrows. But he wasn’t finished:
This doctrine has been openly and zealously inculcated at the south for ten years past; and now, the way being prepared south and north, the slave drivers are determined, with an iron rod over our heads, to force it upon us, and to make it the doctrine of the Presbyterian Church. Any man who demurs at this new doctrine, and ventures to utter, no matter how carefully guarded his language, the old doctrine of the church, is to be ostracized, proscribed, quietly strangled, or if this cannot be done, hunted down and destroyed. This slave-driving domination has never been without injurious effect upon both political and ecclesiastical interests in the so called 'Free States.'
MacMaster went on to suggest that his allies needed to build up the Seminary quietly, avoiding public controversy on the subject until the proper time. This was precisely what Rice had suspected: MacMaster was engaged in a conspiracy which could only result in the division of the church.
The second letter confirmed the first. While eschewing any “divisive or violent course in respect to slavery,” MacMaster urged Spring to beware of those who argued for General Assembly control. “We may rely upon it, that the scheme of our opponents is to get the Seminary put under the Assembly, with the ulterior design of putting into it men who will be sufficiently subservient to our slave-driving rulers and their allies in the so called Free States.” One sure way to prevent such a hostile takeover would be to have donors make conditions “that the Seminary shall remain under the control of the Synods now united, or which shall become united, in conformity to the provisions of the constitution, in the direction thereof; or of such of these Synods as shall continue to be united therein.” This would ensure the safety of all moneys raised for the seminary. After all, MacMaster queried, “Do you wish this money and all the other property you have secured to go into a concern subjected to the offensive domination referred to?”
Rice challenged MacMaster to provide evidence that the southern men were trying to force the rest of the church to uphold their views. If that was in fact the case, then the anti-slavery Rice would “fight against them” as well. But while the southerners openly stated their views, and encouraged debate, MacMaster plotted in secret. Further, the southern men never asked the General Assembly to rid the church of abolitionists, while the abolitionists regularly overtured the Assembly to remove slaveholders. If the southerners were such tyrants, why did the slave-holding synod of Kentucky defend MacMaster so vigorously when he was elected to New Albany in 1848? For that matter, Robert J. Breckinridge notoriously promoted emancipation, yet Danville Seminary had received the approval of the Synod of Mississippi!
Rice argued that the abolitionists were the true tyrants. Rice recalled the meeting of the Synod of Cincinnati in 1844 when “a motion was made to invite a venerable minister from the Synod of Kentucky to sit as a corresponding member.” Rice declined to name names, but insinuated that MacMaster (or at least his friend–Thomas E. Thomas) opposed this “on the ground that he was charged by rumor, with being guilty of ‘the heinous and scandalous sin’ of holding slaves.”
Rice declared that he would submit neither to the “odious domination” of pro-slavery or abolition. If MacMaster would be so kind as to reveal his plan to eliminate slavery, Rice would be happy to assist in any reasonable venture, but he could not be party to subversive measures. Particularly disturbing was MacMaster’s suggestion that Spring and his colleagues urge donors to insert a condition that none of the synods had authorized. “No wonder that Mr. Spring was indignant!”
Underlying all of this was Rice’s opposition to operating secretly. He himself had once been charged with covert operations in the Cincinnati Seminary affair; but Rice was constitutionally incapable of keeping anything quiet for long. Like most Presbyterians, Rice was convinced that open and frank dialogue would produce good and useful results. Covert operations could only lead to suspicions and recriminations. Worst of all, Rice concluded, if MacMaster “approaches elders and other laymen with these charges, and poisons their minds; will he not approach his students in the same way?” With the conspiracy unmasked, Rice felt certain that the northwest would swiftly act to remove the conspirators and establish a seminary faithful to the whole church.
This development shocked the whole church. Cortlandt Van Rensselaer chimed in a second time on the North West Seminary controversy, but this time he sang a different tune. MacMaster’s letters
will destroy his influence and usefulness in the Presbyterian Church. Indeed, we do not see how any minister in our body could write such letters, or writing them, desire to continue in our connection. They disclose so much bitterness of feelig on the subject of slavery, and such a want of confidence in his brethren, that no Seminary can be expected to prosper under the professorship and guidance of one who can make such revelations.. . . . These letters, we presume, virtually decide the question in favour of a transfer of the Seminary to the GA.
Presbyterians despised hidden agendas. If a man disagreed with a position of the church, he should say so openly. But these letters made it appear that MacMaster was involved in a covert operation to subvert the church. In order for Presbyterian polity to work, ministers and elders must have confidence in their brethren. MacMaster’s private missives to his operatives smelled too much like the Jesuitical devices regularly attributed to Rome. Signaling a shift in church-wide opinion, Van Rensselaer openly encouraged Rice to persevere in his newfound Presbyterian Expositor in Chicago.
But two could play at this game. On January 7, 1858, J. G. Monfort published a full account of the ugly affair of South Presbyterian Church in Chicago. The leading Old School figure in Chicago since his arrival from Virginia in 1847 was Cyrus H. McCormick. McCormick had been instrumental in founding North Presbyterian Church in 1848. Convinced that Chicago held the future of the Northwest, he longed to see Chicago filled with Old School Presbyterian churches to exercise a moderating influence over the rambunctious region. He had authored the oft-quoted statement that the Old School Presbyterian Church and the Democratic Party were the two hoops that bound the Union together–and he would devote every spare penny to see that the Union was preserved. Indeed, he had sought to persuade Rice to come to Chicago in 1848, but Rice’s eyes were set on the Ohio River–not on some minor town on the northern fringes of the nation–so North Church called R. H. Richardson (1848-56). When McCormick had become convinced that Richardson could not adequately promote his vision, he and several others had founded South Church in 1854–but still Rice was unwilling to come. So in 1855 McCormick and South Church called R. W. Henry, whose strident anti-slavery views quickly proved unsatisfactory for McCormick’s vision. Only after MacMaster and the North West Seminary had settled on Chicago as the base for their operations did Rice realize what McCormick had known for years: Chicago controlled the future of the Northwest–and Chicago was already overrun by abolitionists. Therefore when Richardson resigned from North Church in 1856, McCormick returned and offered to provide over $2,000 per year towards Rice’s salary (along with subsidizing Rice’s newspaper–at a total cost of $11,000 from 1858-61).
Since the South Church also depended upon McCormick’s largesse (he owned the property where the South Church met, and his money provided for half of the pastor’s rent) he offered to continue his provision for the church. But when the remaining elders (wealthy and conservative business leaders) tried to get Henry to leave South Church, the rest of the congregation came to his defense, and the elders themselves were forced out of the church. When Henry started speaking more boldly against slavery, “McCormick withdrew his aid to South Church; he pressed Henry for payment of his debt, cut off his supply of free coal, and most serious of all, declined to donate the lot to the church.” At this the congregation abandoned the building. The Chicago Press and Tribune complimented the congregation’s resolve to throw off their dependence upon him and “denounced McCormick as the self-appointed ‘lay-bishop’ of Presbyterianism with 'an ambition to hold in fee simple a Church and a pastor.' The newspaper called the former site of South Church 'a good one for any clergyman who happens to be for sale.'” The Presbyterian of the West was quick to point out that Rice refused to intercede, allowing the South Church to be run out of its building. In his defense, McCormick argued that if the church wished to use his money against him, then they were no longer entitled to it.
Monfort and MacMaster’s frustration was growing, together with that of others in the northwest, because they believed that the 1818 testimony of the church against slavery had become a dead letter. But 1858 slowly passed, and little funding could be found for the North West Seminary. Finally it became clear that synodical control would not work in the Northwest. Two or three synods, perhaps, could work together effectively; but the nine synods of the northwest were too divided. In the fall of 1858, therefore, Cincinnati Synod took the lead (supported by MacMaster and the seminary board) in voting to hand over the seminary to the General Assembly. This time, however, all parties were committed to avoiding the debacle of 1853. For better or worse, the General Assembly’s decision would be final.
6. The Theological Seminary of the Northwest and the General Assembly of 1859
MacMaster feared that the slave-power would seek to control the Assembly, and wrest the seminary from the anti-slavery party in the northwest. While MacMaster and his allies originally chose Chicago as the best site for the seminary, Rice’s presence in Chicago presented a problem. If the new seminary were in Chicago, the Assembly would probably offer Rice a chair in the new seminary–and MacMaster had made clear to Monfort that he would refuse to serve with Rice. After consulting with their allies, MacMaster and Monfort turned to Indianapolis, and with the assistance of New Albany graduates and supporters, put together an offer of $31,000 towards an endowment, together with land and seminary buildings worth $35,000. A director of the seminary (probably ruling elder Jesse L. Williams, an influential railroad man from Fort Wayne, Indiana, and a very active supporter of the seminary) published a comparative view of the fields of the various seminaries.
Spheres of Influence of Old School Seminaries, 1858-1859
Synods Pbies Ministers Churches Communicants Candidates Attendance
Princeton 6 38 793 751 87,929 169 181
Allegheny 4 20 333 541 49,943 80 129
Danville 6 30 330 515 25,391 61 47
Columbia 3 12 231 363 24,317 29 42
Union 2 8 197 310 24,847 32 17
North-Western 10 44 541 815 45,969 94 NA
Source: Presbyter 18.24 (Feb 24, 1859) 90. (Attendance numbers are from my own research).
The director reminded his readers that “the revival blessing of 1858 also calls the Church, with adoring gratitude and self-sacrificing zeal, to enter upon this work. Think, for a moment, of her sons that have been gathered into the fold, and how many of them may set their face toward the ministry, and, it may be, even now, are waiting to enter this Seminary.” The hopeful future of foreign missions, the ever-spreading American population, and the painful fact of 250 vacant Presbyterian congregations in the northwest should persuade everyone of the need for this seminary. But the pages of the Presbyter revealed that even MacMaster’s supporters were not entirely united. Some preferred a location in Illinois–while others wondered if the checkered history of New Albany Seminary indicated that divine providence opposed any northwestern seminary.
With General Assembly only a month away, tempers began to fray. When Hill’s Presbyterian Herald urged both sides to remember that they were brethren, Monfort’s Presbyter (formerly called the Presbyterian of the West) reminded Hill that during the Cincinnati Theological Seminary skirmish, Hill had attacked Rice and defended New Albany, only to turn against it when Danville was founded. Monfort concluded that “Until the editor of the Herald has brought forth fruits meet for repentance, we respectfully suggest to him that it would be well for him to hush.” Somewhat more amused than angered, Hill wondered whether this was “a specimen of Christian politeness such as is common in the circles in which our neighbor mingles, but if so, we hope he does not teach it to the young ladies under his charge [Monfort was president of the Glendale Female Seminary in Ohio]. They might be indicted as common scolds, should they imitate it.” Hill could not resist pointing out that
When we were upholding New Albany Seminary, he, though a director of it, was turning the cold shoulder to it, mainly because of Dr. MacMaster’s connection with it, and encouraging Dr. Rice, whom he now so bitterly opposes, to go on with an opposition school He not only refused to vote for Dr. MacMaster for Professor, and tried hard to prevent us from doing so, but desired to publish an article against his acceptance, which Dr. Rice says he refused to publish. Having been for New Albany Seminary and against it, for Dr. MacMaster and against him, and now for him again, we respectfully suggest to our neighbor that he lives in a glass house, and ought not to throw stones at his neighbors for inconsistency.
Hill had enjoyed the battles of his youth, but now as the most senior editor of the western papers, he urged his brethren to moderate their tone and listen to each other more carefully.
The hour for moderation, however, had passed. By May, when the General Assembly met in Indianapolis, Nathan Rice had announced that Cyrus McCormick was willing to give $100,000 for the new seminary if it were in Chicago. And since McCormick’s offer was strictly verbal, everyone understood that it depended upon the character of the seminary coinciding with McCormick’s conservative views.
On the floor of the Assembly, David Stevenson (PTS 1851), pastor of Third Presbyterian in Indianapolis, laid forth the claims of Indianapolis–joined by Samuel R. Wilson (PTS 1840), formerly co-editor with Rice of the Presbyterian of the West and pastor of First Presbyterian in Cincinnati (where his father, Joshua L. Wilson, had been pastor). Ruling elder Ray Sheets of Indianapolis chimed in, gently suggesting that since Indianapolis had a number of donors, it would provide a broader foundation than the munificence of one man.
Dr. Rice replied in “a good humored speech of about an hour and a half,” reminding the Assembly that those who now advocated Indianapolis had previously preferred Chicago. If they had failed to provide the finances for New Albany, how would that change by moving the seminary to Indianapolis? In a pointed reference to MacMaster’s earlier debacle, “he advised his Indiana brethren to lend their energies to put South Hanover College on its feet. It (the College) had passed through troubles enough to kill any thing that wasn’t Presbyterian (Merriment). But these good brethren have hung on to it, and kept it from dying.” At this point elder Ray Sheets chimed in with a little theological humor of his own: “We believe in the perseverance of the saints.” But in this speech Rice demonstrated that he had finally converted to the vision of Chicago as the center of the new West, and MacMaster and his allies were placed in the unenviable position of arguing for a location that was plainly second-best.
The Rev. David Stevenson, however, argued that placing the seminary in Chicago would give in to the wiles of one man. Voicing what many felt, he pointed out that Rice had first tried to unite Pittsburgh and New Albany seminaries in Cincinnati when he was a pastor in Cincinnati. Then he had argued in 1853 for a seminary in St. Louis, and had moved to St. Louis just before that year’s Assembly. Now he argued for Chicago because he lived there. The only constant in Rice’s convictions regarding the seminary seemed to be that “it must be where Dr. Rice is.” Rice’s former colleague in Cincinnati, the Rev. Dr. Samuel R. Wilson thought Indianapolis a more central location. He, too, worried that the Chicago offer was based on one pledge alone. While he accepted McCormick’s good faith, he preferred broader support to the deep pockets of one individual.
Others, however, like ruling elder John C. Grier of Peoria Presbytery, thought that Rice had demonstrated that Chicago’s superiority. As the debate continued, the Rev. John Marshall Lowrie (PTS 1843), pastor at Ft. Wayne, Indiana, called the whole matter a personal quarrel. Dr. MacMaster immediately interrupted: “A personal quarrel between whom?” “Between Dr. Rice and Dr. MacMaster,” Lowrie replied. MacMaster pressed further, “Does the brother mean to say that I have ever–ever been a party to any personal quarrel on this subject?” “Mr. Lowrie stated that he had a general impression that there was a quarrel between Dr. M. and Dr. R, on this subject, and he thought others had the same impression, but he knew nothing about it personally. When Mr. Lowrie sat down, a dozen men rose to speak,” but the Rev. David H. Cummins (WTS 1838), pastor at Mount Carmel, Tennessee, “obtained the floor, and moved the previous question.” The motion was sustained, and the vote was taken:
Contrary to the claims of the supporters of Indianapolis, the northwest preferred Chicago. Among the eight northwestern synods who had previously had control of the seminary, the vote stood at 50-33 in favor of Chicago. The details of the seminary’s organization were referred to the committee on seminaries, selected to represent the church as a whole–exclusive of the disputing parties in the northwest.
Predictably, MacMaster and Rice headed the list of nominations for the professorship of theology. In fact, all three surviving members of Rice’s Cincinnati Theological Seminary faculty were nominated for professorships at the Northwestern Seminary. The Presbyterian noted that lobbyists were even busier than usual in between sessions of the Assembly, urging their cases both for the location and the faculty of the seminary.
The day’s business closed before the election, and the correspondent of the Central Presbyterian hurried off this perceptive note to his paper:
The truth is that underneath all this question of location, the main difficulty is in the personal relations of Drs. Rice and McMaster. There has been, as is well known, a painful controversy between these brethren, which has become complicated with this Seminary question to a lamentable extent. Parties have been formed as much in view of these personal relations, and from sympathies for or against the individuals concerned, as from any other cause. And unhappily, the decision of the Assembly on one side or the other, which may have no real or intended relation to this personal controversy will be regarded a triumph or a defeat of the one or other party.
Presbyterians found personal controversy distasteful (as MacMaster and Rice would have agreed). Parties formed around ideas or principles could be tolerated–but not ones focused around personalities.
The following day, just before the election of professors, the Rev. Dr. Erasmus Darwin MacMaster moved to refer the election of professors to the following General Assembly (1860). MacMaster declared that:
The various public and official relations in which I have been made to stand to this Seminary for the last few years, seemed to make it incumbent on me to represent the affair to the General Assembly, so that it should be fully understood. On the other hand, the personal relations I bear to the subject seemed to make it very difficult for me to do this without violating the proprieties and decencies of life.
For ten long years his footsteps had been followed with accusations to an extent and with a bitterness which he was sure was without a parallel in the history of any member of this church. To these he had never replied; but, being a very imperfect Christian, he did not claim this silence as due to Christian grace. . . .
From the time of the establishment of the Seminary, efforts had been made to injure it by allegations in regard to the opinions of the Professors on the subject of slavery. Specific charges were made by newspapers, and through other agencies, that Drs. McMaster and Thomas were endeavoring to form a thoroughly Abolition Seminary in the Northwest, with the view to educating men to become agitators on this subject--to train men to divide and destroy the church in the Northwest.
Dr. McM then went into a very long history of the action of the Synod of Missouri, in regard to this Seminary, and noticed in this connection certain charges made by the St. Louis Presbyterian, 'edited,' he said, 'by a person I prefer not to name.' . . .
He then read from articles written in September, 1853, in defence of the Seminary, extracts designed to show that upon the directors of the Danville Seminary, rested the charge of having excited this opposition.
It became apparent to the friends of New Albany that the Seminary could not be sustained without the support of additional Synods, and therefore the project of establishing the Seminary of the Northwest was drawn up in August, 1856 at New Albany, signed by the two Professors, and a number of the trustees, and sent to all the ministers of the eight Synods, and to many of the prominent laymen in them. . .
[Continuing into the night session, he] inveighed bitterly against what he termed the slave power in the church, and concluded by saying that, if defeated now, he would go away reverencing the General Assembly, but he would meet them next year--he would meet them at Philippi--continuing to contend for the truth until the end. Here, upon his own free soil, he would fight.
MacMaster’s speech lasted a full two and one half hours. The written report does not do justice to the impression that the speech left upon its hearers. The whole speech, including the last half hour, which contained his first public denunciation of the slave power, and his bitter challenge to the General Assembly, was met by silence. The Central Presbyterian noted that MacMaster’s speech was
an outpouring of the concentrated wrath of five or ten years, in a form so intense, and acrid, that it astonished even those who had charged him with cherishing such feelings. . . . I will only say that his deadliest enemy, if he has such a one, could not have asked him to do more. It was simple ecclesiastical suicide, in its most aggravated form. . . . Before the speech great sympathy was felt for him by many, in view of his ability, age, &c., and a strong desire expressed to put him in the new faculty.
Discussions at the General Assembly suggested that MacMaster may have lost as many as one hundred votes through this speech. MacMaster had turned many against him through his clandestine operations in the past; now he sealed his fate through his open declaration of war on the Assembly.
When MacMaster finished, Nathan Lewis Rice rose and briefly outlined the proofs of “the charges against Dr. McMaster of a design to establish an institution for indoctrinating Abolitionism, and for sending out Abolition agitators.” Dr. MacMaster’s letters had suggested–and now his speech definitively proved that he wanted the North West Seminary to combat the slave power. Without any further discussion, MacMaster’s motion was tabled, and the Assembly proceeded to the election of professors. Before MacMaster’s speech, pundits around the church had predicted that the election would be close. The final tally showed Rice with 214 votes, MacMaster with 45. The whole faculty was connected either to Rice or to Kentucky, which boded well for those who sought to prevent the division of the West–which in their minds would presage a division of the church–and of the nation. William McKendree Scott (1817-1861) was born in Ohio, graduated from PTS in 1846, and after serving as professor at Centre College, Kentucky, from 1847-54, and was called from Seventh Presbyterian Church in Cincinnati. [Biblical Literature].
The Journal of Commerce, a conservative political paper, applauded the Old School for its patient handling of MacMaster and the radicals: “This body of christians have learned to agree to differ in non-essentials, while in matters cardinal and essential they are one, and apparently indivisible.” On the other hand, many political and religious papers had a field day with this speech. Southern papers used it to show that the Old School was allowing abolitionist agitation in the Assembly, while Northern papers reviled the Old School for failing to come to MacMaster’s defense–although some took hope that perhaps the 45 who voted for MacMaster demonstrated that abolitionist sentiment was growing in the Old School.
But no Old School paper was willing to defend MacMaster’s speech. Even Monfort’s Presbyter temporarily distanced itself from MacMaster. While sympathetic to MacMaster’s aims, Monfort recognized ecclesiastical suicide when he saw it. Indeed, Monfort suggested that the result was not a complete disaster. Referring to McCormick’s famous “hoop” statement, Monfort conjectured that
Mr. McCormick's hundred thousand dollars is a new hoop to keep the Union from falling to staves, as well as to raise up ministers in our Church. Nevertheless, as his offer has been made unconditionally to the GA, we may not travel out of the record for a motive. . . . The location is good, the donation is liberal, and the control is safe. . . . The necessity of patronage will forbid this to be a Northern Seminary with Southern principles. Indeed Dr Rice found it necessary to take high anti-slavery ground before the Assembly. He declared himself in favor of the action on slavery by the Assembly of 1818, to the letter, and he said he was opposed to the views of his pro-slavery brethren in the South. The Seminary at Chicago could not be maintained under any other colors.
The last portion of MacMaster’s speech, in Monfort’s opinion, contained several unwise and erroneous items. Indeed, he believed that the motive for the whole speech was selfish. Knowing that Rice would be elected to one professorship, MacMaster preferred to “make his speech, though he should lose every vote by so doing,” which may have had the effect of preventing the election of other men who might have agreed with him. Further, MacMaster wrongly blamed the slave power for his overthrow, whereas the real opposition came from those troubled by his alleged abolitionism–a misunderstanding he did nothing to correct. After all, Southern men had been MacMaster’s chief defenders from the start. “There is no evidence that Southern men in our Church are in any sense responsible for the opposition made to Dr. MacMaster.” Indeed, Monfort suggested that a large majority of southern men were prepared to vote for MacMaster until his violent speech convinced them otherwise. Monfort assured his readers that MacMaster was not a “victim of his views on slavery--these, as he read them to the Assembly, have been widely published, and are confessedly consistent with the action of our Church--but because in a tone of defiance and threatening he claimed that the only question to be settled by the Assembly was, whether it shall sanction the usurpation and domination of this pro-slavery power in the Church.” The result was inevitable because MacMaster said that to vote against him was to vote for the slave power--and to vote for him was to vote against it. Few even of his supporters were willing to vote for him after that. Monfort lamented that “the Church is to be deprived of the labors of a man as Professor of Theology, who is eminently qualified, and who has been, and no doubt still is, in this region, preferred to any other for this service.”
Monfort’s willingness to criticize his decapitated head called forth a quick answer from “headquarters” (as Monfort put it). “Vindex,” writing with the sanction of MacMaster himself, defended his fallen chief in every respect. McCormick did not sign a legal contract until after Rice’s election. If Rice had not been elected, everyone knew that McCormick would have been free to withdraw his offer. It was, in short, a bribe–and what is more, a bribe that would give the slave power a controlling interest in the seminary. Further, everyone knew that the Assembly was trying to put both Rice and MacMaster on the faculty, and for MacMaster, “it was infinitely more important to him to preserve his own integrity, to maintain his principles, and to perform his duty, than that he should be put into any place in that Seminary.” Finally, Vindex insisted that MacMaster’s tone was measured and calm–not defiant and threatening.
Monfort replied that if MacMaster had been concerned with the financial arrangements, he should have said so openly (here suggesting that even he had grown weary of MacMaster’s indirect methods). There was no southern conspiracy against MacMaster. He had sunk himself! Monfort concluded that MacMaster suffered from a “morbid state of mind” which contributed to his constant paranoia.
Still, Monfort refused to cooperate with the new seminary, and prophesied that “4/5 of the Synod of Cincinnati, 9/10 of Indiana, 2/3 of Northern Indiana and Iowa, 1/4 of Illinois and Chicago, and 1/10 of Wisconsin and Southern Iowa, will not support the Seminary at Chicago as now organized.” Rice’s persistent opposition to the seven synods had earned him their disdain, and his pro-slavery reputation was widespread. The rest of the faculty had little support in the northwest: Willis Lord was an associate with Rice at Cincinnati and waffled back and forth twice to Congregationalism; William M. Scott regularly opposed MacMaster and had recently voted against continuing the seminary at all; Leroy J. Halsey was less objectionable–except for the fact that he was on the Rice/McCormick ticket. At that, Monfort lapsed into a stony silence on the seminary question for several months.
In October Monfort broke his silence only long enough to report the synods’ reception of the new seminary. His own Synod of Cincinnati agreed to disagree regarding seminary selection, and “pronounced our territory common ground from the Seminaries of the Assembly.” Western and Danville both commanded greater support than Chicago, while Princeton remained popular as well (an opinion well supported by the fact that Miami University sent 21 students to Princeton from 1857-1866). The Synod of Indiana was the only synod that formally dissented from the formation of North West Theological Seminary and stated its preference for other seminaries, but Northern Indiana voted 28-13 to withdraw its exclusive attachment to the seminary. The Synod of Illinois recommended both Chicago and Danville to its churches 29-20 (with the 20 signing a protest against this), while the Synod of Southern Iowa seemed generally pleased with the new seminary and the Synods of Chicago and Wisconsin were overwhelmingly in favor of it. After all its complaining about being left out, the Synod of Missouri, he noted, took no action whatsoever.
Formal synodical action, however, was not the only response. R. S. (probably a ruling elder) reported that while the Synod of Southern Iowa took no action against the seminary, “hundreds of our laity [and the synod contained fewer than 3,000 communicant members], and a goodly number of the ministry, believe the Assembly inflicted a grievous wrong” in its decision on the seminary. “Moreover, we believe that the Slave-Power is now exerting an influence upon our beloved church, which, if not checked, must be disastrous in the extreme.” Determined to join MacMaster in his stand against the encroaching evil, R. S. declared that “it is the birth-right of a Presbyterian to think for himself. Having these opinions, we dare maintain them.”
Elsewhere, the Central Presbyterian concurred with Monfort that many voted for MacMaster out of their respect for him and out of their indignation over Rice’s provocative course of action–not because of any abolition sympathies. The Philadelphia Presbyterian commented that MacMaster’s speech “might readily have produced an explosion” even in less excitable bodies, but as one Indianapolis resident said, he “had never before seen so big a stone thrown into so large a body of water without making even a ripple upon its surface.” The editors hoped that the West would unite and put aside contention and strife.
Charles Hodge reviewed MacMaster’s speech that July, calling it a “manly avowal of opinions which he knew to be unpopular, and which he must have been aware would place him out of sympathy with the body which he addressed.” Nonetheless, Hodge could not understand why MacMaster had destroyed his chances of election, when no one called on him to speak–or why he engaged in personal controversy on the floor of the Assembly. But after examining MacMaster’s doctrine of slavery in the speech, Hodge declared that it made a strange distinction between slavery and slaveholding that made “all slaveholding, under all conceivable circumstances. . . a crime. There can, according to his definition, no more be justifiable slaveholding, than there can be justifiable murder.” Hodge objected that MacMaster defined slavery as “a system which makes a man a chattel; a thing which denies to him the rights of a husband and father; which debars him from instruction and means of improvement.” But Hodge pointed out that in many nations slavery had not included these things. “Slavery. . . is nothing but involuntary servitude‑that is, the obligation to render service not conditioned on the will of the servant.” Hodge insisted that unjust laws did not necessarily define slavery–otherwise the scripture would be guilty of condoning injustice. The irony, for Hodge, was that by defining slavery according to the unjust laws of the South, MacMaster was attacking something that no Presbyterian defended. If slavery, by definition, denied men the rights of a husband and father, then no southern Presbyterian was pro-slavery, and if the south ever reformed its slave laws, then MacMaster would have no grounds to object to the continuation of slavery!
While MacMaster remained silent in the face of all other criticisms, Hodge’s response goaded him to speak. His reply to Hodge contained the most detailed public statement on slavery that he ever made. MacMaster insisted again that he had no personal controversy with “the person you name” (he would resolutely refuse to name Nathan Rice). “Although it may have been your good fortune, that your controversies have been with gentlemen, yet you no doubt are aware, that there are some men with whom one chooses not too have a controversy of any kind whatever.” As to the matter of slavery, MacMaster insisted that any distinction between slavery and slaveholding is unsound. The “holding of slaves as slaves,” is always wrong. Distinguishing between slaves and bond-servants, MacMaster admitted that it may be necessary at times to hold slaves as bond-servants, but never as slaves. MacMaster objected that Paley was an unsafe guide in defining slavery as “nothing but involuntary servitude,” because neither Paley nor Hodge considered the actual definitions of slavery under law. Giving several state laws from the South, MacMaster insisted that slavery makes “the legal status of men to be that of property; that is, of real estate, or of chattels: which takes them out of the category of persons, having the personal character and rights which God has conferred on and made inseparable from humanity even in its lowest estate, and putting them into the category of things, having no rights.” He desired to reveal how the minions of the pro-slavery power were interfering with the Northwest–in spite of the fact that northerners scrupulously avoided any such interference in the South. “I admit that it is an ugly charge,” but since no other ground was given except his views on slavery, what other reason could exist?
With their champion disgraced, and divided over whether to support the Northwestern Seminary, it seemed that northwestern anti-slavery activism was finally defeated. But Monfort’s prediction that Rice would be forced to emphasize his antislavery colors in Chicago soon came true. Since the political and religious papers in Chicago had immediately labeled him “proslavery,” he set out to prove them wrong. That fall he published his lectures on slavery, taking very similar ground to MacMaster. After all, the real difference between the two had more to do with tone than with content. J. G. Monfort commented that he was “pleased with the main sentiments of these lectures. . . as adapted to do much good and but little harm.”
Delighted New School papers quickly declared him an abolitionist and hoped to see counterblasts from Old School papers. The Presbyterian Herald dashed such fantasies. Hill commented that he disagreed with certain items in Rice’s articles but insisted that wise and good men who have confidence in each other’s piety and purity of intention “can agree to disagree.” Even throughout the tension-filled election year of 1860, the Old School press remained remarkably civil to one another (with the occasional exception of the Presbyter) even while disagreeing, because as Rice had put it, “sometimes we must endure certain evils, because the alternative is worse.”
Nonetheless, Rice’s support in the Presbyterian Expositor for President Buchanan’s attempt to open the territories to slavery called forth a patient rebuke from Monfort’s pen: “The Seminary and the paper will stand we doubt not as monuments of [McCormick’s] beneficence, and in the end do great good; but we have as little doubt that in the Seminary and in the paper his wishes and aims on the question of slavery and its relation to the church are doomed to disappointment. There is no amount of money devoted to religious foundations, and no amount of talent appertaining to teachers or editors placed upon them that can bring the Church in the North-West to yield a jot or tittle of principle or policy on the vexed question.” Monfort was willing to wait–because he saw that in the end, the North-West was really on his side. All they had to do was patiently “resist the money power” and wait until the press and the seminary sounded the right note. “The Old School Presbyterian Church of the West and North-West will stand firm. She will help to save the Union by giving to the South all that the Constitution guarantees, and she will oppose slavery extension by all lawful means.” Anti-slavery Old Schoolers were not abolitionists–but they were determined free-soilers.
Both Rice and MacMaster desired to see slavery eradicated as quickly as possible from the United States. Both rejected abolitionism and agreed that slaveholding was not necessarily sinful. Both endorsed colonization. And both agreed that their understandings of slavery and the best means for its eradication were mutually exclusive.
If MacMaster’s story is plainly a tragedy–as he systematically destroyed three colleges and a seminary, before ruining his own career–Rice’s story is no less tragic. In 1861, after the outbreak of the Civil War, Rice resigned his pastorate, theological chair, and editorship, and took a call to the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church in New York City–a more congenial location for a reputed southern sympathizer. More pragmatic than the strictly principled MacMaster, Rice sought to accomplish the impossible by means of the improbable. Perhaps in retrospect it looks absurd to suppose that intelligent men such as Rice and McCormick could have believed that a church, a seminary, and a weekly religious newspaper could have altered the political course of a whole region; but from the vantage point of 1859, the landscape looked very different. Many–Rice and McCormick included–had envisioned the likelihood of disunion and war, but these Old School Presbyterians were convinced that if God desired the Union to be preserved, then he would doubtless accomplish it through the spoken and written word–directed to the hearts of men and women throughout the northwest.
J. G. Monfort continued editing the Presbyter, and delighted in welcoming the Pittsburgh Presbyterian Banner and the Philadelphia Presbyterian Standard into the rolls of the Old School Republican newspapers in the early 1860s. He reveled in his newfound position as a leader of the majority party in the General Assemblies after the 1861 secession of the Southern synods, and rejoiced in the discomfiture of Rice and the old conservative bloc, that now found themselves scrambling to explain their position in the light of new political realities.
And Erasmus Darwin MacMaster? He remained in quiet seclusion for seven years, writing much (but publishing little). He attempted to publish a religious monthly in 1862, but lack of subscribers prevented the first number from ever appearing. One cannot help but sympathize with MacMaster’s frustration at the refusal of his church to deal with the southerners’ flagrant disregard for the church’s traditional teaching on slavery. He could not imagine that he himself might have had anything to do with the demise of each school over which he presided. It must have been the slave power–personified in their puppet, Nathan Rice–which was forcing him into an ever smaller and smaller sphere of influence until his glorious vision for the northwest was smashed to pieces.
After the departure of the southerners in 1861, MacMasters supporters gained considerable political advantage in the General Assembly, and in 1866 the General Assembly restored Erasmus Darwin MacMaster to the chair that–in the eyes of many–should have been his from the start. Monfort was exultant: “his retirement from active service, under the circumstances, for more than seven years, was a festering wound in the heart of the Church of the North-West, to which his election. . . by a vote of 204 to 22 was an excellent oil.” The seminary had been restored to the vision of the founders. But vision alone could not give life–or money. Within six months Erasmus Darwin MacMaster lay dead, and the “Republican” supporters of the North West Theological Seminary could only raise a pittance towards the maintenance of the Northwest Seminary.
Cyrus McCormick’s reaper played an ironic role in the debacle. While McCormick’s money enabled conservative Old School Presbyterians to maintain a foothold in the northwest, his reaper was part of the very engine that drove the freesoil movement of the northwest. McCormick had recognized the importance of Chicago, as railroads and abolitionism relegated the once-central Ohio River to a cultural backwater. And while his incredible wealth gave him considerable power (of the first $1.2 million donated to the Northwest Theological Seminary, over $800,000 came from McCormick and his immediate family) McCormick did not, after all, get what he wanted: the seminary failed to keep the union together–and after the war his munificent gifts to Virginia’s Union Seminary and Washington College (the latter during the presidency of Robert E. Lee–much to the chagrin of northern patriots) could not knit northern and southern Presbyterians back together again. In the end, neither the Old School Presbyterian Church nor the Democratic Party were strong enough hoops to hold together the barrel of the Union.
Editorial, “The Two General Assemblies” CP 1.31 (August 2, 1856) 122. The Central Presbyterian was the successor to the Watchman and Observer, as Benjamin Gildersleeve handed over the editorial reins to Thomas V. Moore and Moses D. Hoge, the pastors of the First and Second Presbyterian Churches in Richmond, Virginia. Gildersleeve remained an associate editor.
“Slavery Agitation,” Presbyterian 27.8 (February 21, 1857) 30.
“Is It So?” Presbyterian 27.30 (July 25, 1857) 118. When the American Presbyterian pointed out that the four presbyteries of Wooster, Chillicothe, Marion and Richland were agitating on slavery, Engles replied that they had been that way for twenty years, but that these four Ohio presbyteries were more than balanced by the 13 Ohio presbyteries that were content with the church’s conservative stance (Oct 17, 1857) 166.
Editorial, “Agitation at a Discount,” Presbyterian 27.34 (August 22, 1857) 134.
J. D. M., “It Is Not So,” Presbyterian 27.34 (August 22, 1857) 134. (Possibly James Dinsmore Mason of Davenport Iowa, a native of western Pennsylvania, a WTS graduate of 1841)
Presbyterian (Nov 7, 1857) 178. Unfortunately, the Presbyterian kept its subscription information tightly under wraps. It was widely known that it had the highest circulation of any Old School newspaper, and most estimates place it around 7-10,000, but its geographical spread is unknown (other than the ubiquitous complaints of other editors that people in every region of the church subscribed to the Presbyterian rather than to the local paper).
The growth of a significant anti-slavery movement in the Old School in the 1840s which became more vocal in the 1850s is consistent with John R. McKivigan’s thesis that the diverse efforts of Christian abolitionists made significant inroads into the evangelical denominations during those years. McKivigan, The War against Proslavery Religion: Abolitionism and the Northern Churches, 1830-1865 (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1984).
One of the few broader studies that focuses on Presbyterianism in the northwest (albeit New School Presbyterianism) is Victor B. Howard, Conscience and Slavery: The Evangelistic Calvinist Domestic Mission, 1837-1861 (Kent, OH: The Kent State University Press, 1990). David M. Potter has called attention to Stephen Douglas’s conviction regarding the centrality of Chicago and the West in 1853. David M. Potter, The Impending Crisis, 1848-1861 (New York: Harper & Row, 1976) 152-153.
Rice had made a name for himself as a controversialist, editor and popular preacher. He had built up large congregations in Kentucky and Ohio and in 1848 was probably the best-known and most widely read Old School Presbyterian minister in the west.
“The Synod of Cincinnati” Protestant and Herald 4.6 (Nov 6, 1845). The Monforts were staunch supporters of Hanover College and had been furious with MacMaster for his attempted “sabotage” of their college. Now, only a year after MacMaster left Indiana in disgrace, the Monforts will begin to rehabilitate him as their anti-slavery champion. After several years as a pastor in eastern New York, MacMaster had served as president of Hanover College (which he had been accused of sabotaging), Madison University (which had failed), and Miami University (which had dwindled during his administration). His botched attempt to close down Hanover College and replace it with Madison University had earned him the mistrust of many Indiana Presbyterians.
Wilson–son of Cincinnati patriarch Joshua L. Wilson–does not seem to have contributed a great deal and resigned in 1848.
Editorial, “Slavery–Our Position,” PW 2:2 (March 4, 1847) 86.
E. N. Sawtell, “Letters Concerning Slavery at the South from the New York Observer” PW 2.47-48 (August 26-September 2, 1847) 181, 185, 186.
Le Roy J. Halsey, A History of The McCormick Theological Seminary of the Presbyterian Church (Chicago: Published by the Seminary, 1893) 32. New Albany Theological Seminary had its origins in the theological department of Hanover College–where MacMaster had presided a few years before. But while Hanover College was under the general oversight of the Synod of Indiana, and expected to attract students from that state, from 1838 the Seminary was under the oversight of the three synods of Cincinnati, Indiana and Kentucky, and hoped to draw students from the entire West. Therefore they sought a more central location on the Ohio River. An offer of $15,000 from ruling elder Elias Ayres (given in memory of his son who had died while preparing for the ministry) and suitable buildings was sufficient to persuade the directors that New Albany, across the Ohio from Louisville, was the best place.
RJB, “The New Seminary,” PW (Dec 13, 1849), followed by Rice’s commentary. Breckinridge had spent the last dozen years in Baltimore and Pittsburgh, but returned to his native Kentucky in 1847 as the state’s first superintendent of Public Education.
PH 18.9 (Nov 23, 1848).
David Monfort, PW (Nov 22, 1848). The Monforts were staunch supporters of Hanover College and had been furious with MacMaster for his attempted “sabotage” of their college. Soon, however, David’s nephew J. G. Monfort would begin to rehabilitate him as their anti-slavery champion.
Nathan Lewis Rice, North Western Theological Seminary (np, nd ) 3. [Archives, Union Theological Seminary].
 The following year, 1849, they had promise of enough funding from Kentucky to add another professor. Daniel Stewart (1811-1897) of New York (PTS 1838), taught biblical literature (1849-53), moving Wood over to church history. Stewart had ministered in Amsterdam, NY, after James Wood, and then had followed him to New Albany, taking a call to the 1st Presbyterian church of New Albany in 1844. With New Yorkers Wood, Stewart and MacMaster on the faculty, the balance between north and south was lost completely. So the seminary called Philip Lindsley (1786-1855) out of retirement from his twenty-five year presidency at the University of Nashville to teach pastoral theology (1849-1855). Halsey, A History of The McCormick Theological Seminary, 53. Lindsley, the moderator of the General Assembly in 1834, had married Mary Ann Ayres, the widow of the seminary’s chief patron, Elias Ayres, and since they were both quite wealthy, he required no payment for his teaching. Lindsley resigned in 1853 due to the uncertain future of the institution, but continued to teach until his death in 1855. Also by 1849 New Albany developed a German constituency. Several German students wished to train for the ministry in order to pastor German Presbyterian congregations (the number of which was rapidly growing in the West), so the seminary appointed John Lichtenstein as their professor (previously a minister in the First New York Presbytery, he also pastored the German Presbyterian congregation in New Albany). PH 19.47 (Aug 15, 1849), and 19.49 (Aug 29, 1849). This relationship seems to have continued through 1853.
PH 19.26 (March 21, 1849). The trustees of the fund were ministers William L. Breckinridge, Edward P. Humphrey, and Leroy J. Halsey, and ruling elders Samuel Casseday and William Richardson.
N., “New Albany Seminary” PH 18.12 (Dec 14, 1848).
PH 20.6 (Oct 31, 1849). New Albany professor Philip Lindsley, a member of the Synod, spoke vigorously against this, but most six of the eight ruling elders voted with the Doak family (the leading educators in Tennessee).
PH 18.12 (Dec 14, 1848). This is borne out by the database study which indicates that Princeton graduated more western students than New Albany.
Robert J. Breckinridge, “Theological Seminaries: A Few Considerations in Regard to Them. Addressed to the Rev. Dr. John McDowell, Rev. H. A. Boardman, M. Newkirk, Esq., Alexander W. Mitchell, M.D., and James N. Dickson, Esq., a Committee of the General Assembly, &c.,” BLRM 6.9 (September, 1840) 399.
Breckinridge, “Theological Seminaries,” 400-401.
Breckinridge, “Theological Seminaries,” 405.
“Theological Seminaries” PW 3.44 (Aug 3, 1848) 382. It is interesting that such diverse characters as Robert J. Breckinridge and Gardiner Spring should have concurred in their suspicion of seminaries. Spring was New England trained, and had protested against the exclusion of the New School synods, whereas Breckinridge was a Kentuckian who had led the charge against the New School.
“Another Western Theological Seminary” PH 19.5 (Oct 25, 1849).
Editorial, PW 5.5-9 (Nov 1, 8, 15, 22, 29, 1849); quote from Nov 1.
PW 5.10 (Dec 6, 1849).
Parvus, “Cincinnati Theological Seminary” PH 19.6 (Nov 1, 1849); Observator, PW 5.14-15 (Jan 3, 10, 1850). For several months Rice and Hill (who had spent several years as village pastors in neighboring towns in Kentucky) debated the wisdom and propriety of this scheme. Hill printed a defense of New Albany Seminary by two of Kentucky’s leading pastors, W. L. Breckinridge and E. P. Humphrey. Rice replied to Breckinridge and Humphrey that the west could only support one seminary–and that New Albany was shrinking and dying. The only way to unite the west on one seminary was to begin again in a new location with new blood. PW 5.24-25 (March 7, 14, 1850). “Cincinnati Theological Seminary,” W&O 6.3 (August 29, 1850) 11. The Richmond Watchman and Observer was noncommittal, though it approved of the pastoral tone of the general plan of the seminary. In general, though, the lack of ecclesiastical oversight, and the sense that Rice had acted too hastily prevented most Old School Presbyterians from supporting the new seminary. SDS, “General Assembly” W&O 6.32 (May 29, 1851), suggested that the western brethren tended to fight and quarrel much quicker, but also made up quicker; the problem, from his point of view was that so long as they fought, they could not be friends. From his stand point, it appeared that as of 1851, MacMaster had the larger support.
Nathan Lewis Rice, North Western Theological Seminary (np, nd ) 5. [Archives, Union Theological Seminary]. Rice admitted that Monfort wanted to see a larger endowment and a more traditional seminary, but in the polemical context of 1857, wished to show that Monfort had not always supported MacMaster.
 PW 5.29 (April 11, 1850). The dissenters were Samuel R. Wilson–son of the recently deceased Joshua L. Wilson and formerly Rice’s co-editor, and L. G. Gaines. They would only approve if the other seminaries could be united in Cincinnati.
 “Theological Seminary” PW 6.1 (Sept 26, 1850) 2.
 PW 7.3 (October 9, 1851).
 The faculty of the seminary consisted of James Hoge, professor of Ecclesiastical History, Church Government and Evidences, Nathan L. Rice, professor of Didactic and Polemic Theology and Mental and Moral Science, Willis Lord, professor of Pulpit and Pastoral Instruction, and James C. Moffat, professor of Biblical Literature and Criticism. (Hoge had moved from Virginia to Ohio in 1814 out of his disgust for slavery, and Lord would later be identified with the vigorously anti-slavery wing of the church, so this should not be seen as a pro-slavery faculty).
 Halsey, A History of The McCormick Theological Seminary, 265; and database. The Presbyterian Herald wondered loudly how a Congregationalist could be expected to train Presbyterian ministers, and Rice’s reply, that “circumstances may render expedient, in particular instances, that which ought not to become general,” was not comforting to those who believed that Rice was more concerned with power than with principle. “Reply to Presbyterian Herald” PW 6.48 (August 21, 1851). The Congregationalist was Willis Lord, the third professor of Cincinnati Seminary in 1851. Since no Presbyterian church was prepared to call him, Lord accepted a call from the First Orthodox Congregational church in Cincinnati. The seminary did not have enough funding to pay full-time professors, and Rice thought that it would be best for seminary classes to be taught by full-time pastors. The Massachusetts-born, Princeton-educated Lord (1809-1888) had served two Congregational churches before transferring to the Old School Presbytery of Philadelphia to pastor the Pennsylvania Square Presbyterian Church (1840-51). The irony about the debate over whether he was sufficiently Presbyterian is found in the fact that at the time he was serving as the stated clerk of the General Assembly (1846-50). Nonetheless, the cooperation between the Congregationalists and Presbyterians in Cincinnati was brief. Six weeks after Rice announced Lord’s call to the First Congregational Church, the Presbyterian of the West noted that Lord had resigned his pastorate under pressure, since the Congregational Church was unwilling to allow him to remain a member of the Presbytery of Cincinnati. PW 7.1 (September 25, 1851). Two months later he was called to the Seventh Presbyterian Church of Cincinnati, ending the controversy about his Congregational connection, but leaving lingering doubts about the principles upon which the seminary would operate. PW 7.9 (November 20, 1851).
 PW 7.31 (May 27, 1852).
 “Theological Seminaries” PW 8.3 (October 7, 1852).
 Kentucky, “Seminary—the Olive Branch” PW 8.10 (November 25, 1852).
 “Theological Seminary in the West” PW 8.16 (January 6, 1853) 62.
McCormick had attended Rice’s church at various times in 1845-47, while McCormick was expecting to establish his headquarters in Cincinnati. But by 1847 McCormick became convinced that the rivers no longer held the future of the northwest, and moved his reaper manufacturing center to the fledgling Chicago. William T. Hutchinson, Cyrus Hall McCormick (New York: The Century Co., 1930) I:241-253. McCormick wrote to Rice: “We do think the cause for which you have been so successfully laboring would be promoted by the change. We believe our whole church throughout the country is now sensible of the great importance of securing its proper influence upon the vast interests extending throughout the great N. Western country of which Chicago must be the principal City and commercial emporium.” McCormick to Rice Dec 3, 1854, quoted in Hutchinson, Cyrus Hall McCormick II:10. Apparently McCormick had also written in 1852 to urge Rice to come to Chicago.
 “The Theological Seminary and St Louis” PW 8.27 (March 24, 1853). James Smith replied on April 14 that the Synod of Illinois had not endorsed any particular location, but noted that Peoria was the favorite among Illinois Presbyterians.
 Some thought that he left for more money—but John D. Thorpe, the publisher of the Presbyterian of the West (and a ruling elder in Central Presbyterian Church, Cincinnati), pointed out that $2,500 and the use of a manse in St. Louis was far below his Cincinnati salary; see PW 8.34 (May 19, 1853), 8.37 (June 9, 1853).
“A Theological Seminary for the West” W&O 8.34 (March 31, 1853) 134.
“General Assembly,” Presbyteran 23.23 (June 4, 1853) 90.
The irony is that Danville is thirty miles closer to Columbia in a straight line than Nashville, but in terms of the regional connections of the Old School, Tennessee was much closer to South Carolina than Kentucky. Many northwesterners still thought of Kentucky as part of the northwest. As evidence of this, no one appears to have pointed out Breckinridge’s geographical error.
“Proceedings of the General Assembly,” W&O 8.43 (June 2, 1853) 170. The relation of East and West can be seen in Kensey Johns’ (the Chancellor of Delaware) intimation that the West had “monopolised the time of the house” through this debate–even though Rev. P. D. Young of southern Illinois (Kaskaskia Presbytery) pointed out that the great majority of that time had been used by one man (R. J. Breckinridge)–much to the dismay of those who wanted a truly western seminary [“Proceedings of the General Assembly,” W&O 8.44 (June 9, 1853) 173]. Cf. “General Assembly,” BRPR 25:3 (July, 1853) 505-513.
“Proceedings of the General Assembly,” W&O 8.43 (June 2, 1853) 170.
 “Address of the Directors of New Albany Seminary” PW 8.41 (July 7, 1853). This was echoed in even stronger language by A Member of Cincinnati Synod, “Theological Seminary” PW 13.1 (September 22, 1853).
 “New Albany Theological Seminary” PW 8.40 (June 30, 1853).
 A Member of Cincinnati Synod, “Theological Seminary” PW 13.1 (September 22, 1853).
The Danville curriculum attempted a novel experiment in theological education. Rather than divide the students into classes, each professor taught his whole department in a three year cycle (the only exception being language study). In 1857, after the experiment had been in place for four years, R. J. Breckinridge described the curriculum for the Central Presbyterian: in his didactic and polemic theology course the whole student body studied the knowledge of God 1) objectively considered, 2) subjectively considered, and 3) relatively considered (polemics). Breckinridge argued that any one of these foci could provide a useful starting point for the student. Edward P. Humphrey taught ecclesiastical history in sequence: 1) the Old Testament Church–typology and the various covenants, 2) the apostolic and ancient church, and 3) the medieval and modern church. Stuart Robinson had just been called as the third professor, so he had not fully developed the field of Church Government and Practical Theology, but Breckinridge summarized Robinson’s view as seeing the whole in terms of “objective facts regarding the church and subjective life of the church.” [“Danville Seminary” CP 2.18 (May 2, 1857) 70]. But outside of Kentucky, this method found few supporters [Q, “The Danville Pedagogick” PW (March 15, 1854) 101].
“The Danville and New Albany Theological Seminaries,” W&O 9.13 (Nov 3, 1853) 49.
John C. Young, “The Danville and New Albany Theological Seminaries” W&O 9.17 (Dec 1, 1853) 66.
At the Assembly of 1854, MacMaster arose and renewed his claims that Robert J. Breckinridge (or others from the Synod of Kentucky) had falsified documents and manipulated the whole creation of Danville Seminary. Breckinridge replied with humor that “if the Assembly were tired of their bargain, they would not find him hanging on to their skirts.” In a self-deprecating gesture, but one with a message for MacMaster, who claimed to speak for New Albany, Breckinridge declared that “when he spoke in the name of the Synod of Kentucky, or an ecclesiastical body, he spoke much more guardedly than he did when he spoke in the name of that old Dr. Breckinridge who lived within him, and gave him a great deal of trouble.” Further, he said that it appeared as though New Albany wanted to agitate on the subject of slavery. Finally, he could not see how MacMaster could oppose moving the seminary: “He wished he had time, just as a matter of amusement, to argue a point. Suppose it had occurred to him to be President of a College at South Hanover, Indiana, and suppose he had wished to change it to Madison, Indiana, and call it Madison University.” At this, MacMaster arose and indignantly protested, “I never proposed to remove a College from South Hanover.” Granting that this was technically true, Breckinridge stated it more bluntly: “Suppose then it had occurred to him to kill the College at South Hanover, and erect a new one at Madison–suppose the Synod of Indiana were to take great offence at this, and suppose his Madison University was to be broken up, and the charter given back to South Hanover–now does all this row and trouble mean nothing? Was that Institution, through all these changes, the same College? Then New Albany Seminary would be the same Seminary after the proposed changes.” Legally speaking, New Albany Seminary no longer existed. Seven synods had handed it over to the Assembly, and only three now sought to carry it on. Nonetheless, Breckinridge did not wish to interfere with New Albany–so long as New Albany would stop trying to interfere with Danville.
During the same time period another six graduates each from Miami and Hanover attended Princeton though only two from Centre. These colleges had sent 5, 16, and 22 students respectively to Princeton from 1847-1853. It is worth pointing out that Hanover students only started coming to Princeton in droves shortly after MacMaster was elected professor at New Albany in 1848. Even Halsey, who is generally sympathetic to MacMaster, admits that his presence at New Albany led to the decline of the seminary–despite his fine teaching (A History of The McCormick Theological Seminary, 49). From 1857-1866 Miami and Hanover returned to the Princeton fold, sending 21 and 31 students respectively, as the northwest became increasingly uncomfortable with Kentucky). After the war the stream from Hanover to Princeton dried up, as no Hanover graduate enrolled in 1866, 1867 or 1868 (after averaging 4-5 per year during the war). See appendix three. Meanwhile Danville had 36 students in its first year, and Western more than doubled its attendance in five years. In its first decade (1853-1863) Danville had 136 students. Of the 100 whose place of origin is known, 38 came from the southwest (24 from Kentucky) and 18 from north of the Ohio River (13 from Ohio). An additional 20 came from states normally associated with the southern seminaries (eight from Virginia and six from North Carolina), and 18 from northeastern states (the other six were foreign born). Of the 128 whose college is known, 36 came from northwestern colleges (13 from Hanover, eight from Miami, and seven from Jefferson), 63 from southwestern colleges (50 from Centre), 11 from the southeast (six from Hamden-Sydney) and 14 from the northeast (eight from the College of New Jersey), while four were educated in Europe.
“The Banner–Dr. Thornwell and the Seminary,” Southern Presbyterian 11.18 (February 13, 1858).
“The Banner–Dr. Thornwell and the Seminary,” Southern Presbyterian 11.18 (February 13, 1858). The True Witness of New Orleans concurred with Cunningham. Southern Presbyterian 11.21 (March 6, 1858).
From the St. Louis Presbyterian, reprinted in the Presbyterian 24.46 (November 18, 1854) 182.
 “The Critic vs. New Albany” PW 13.50 (August 30, 1854) 198.
Editorial, “Our Theological Seminaries,” Southern Presbyterian 7.41 (July 27, 1854) 162.
A native of Pennsylvania, Hugh Stewart Fullerton (1804-1863) had studied privately with Dr. Samuel Crothers of Greenfield, Ohio, a leading abolitionist member of the Chillicothe Presbytery, and was licensed in 1830 by that presbytery. He served at Salem church from 1838 until his death in 1863.
“Letter from H. S. Fullerton” PW 8.21 (February 10, 1853) 82-3. Using Uncle Tom’s Cabin to make a connection between slavery and the Roman Catholic Church was not a one-way street. It was twice placed on the Index. Simeon Brown, who took over for Rice briefly in 1853 said in “Uncle Tom's Cabin” PW 13.3 (October 6, 1853), that “the poor old man, whom they call the Pope, has given a second kick at Mrs. Stowe's world famous book. Twice now, has it gone into the solemnly prohibited list, and this last time as 'damnably pernicious.' We thought it was a capital thing, when we first read it. . . . But we are now satisfied. If the Devil were in the book, the Pope would never have put the book in the Index. He never treats in that way his most valuable and powerful ally. We take his acts, therefore, in this matter, as a demonstration that Uncle Tom is a genuine fruit of Liberty and the Bible.” [The numbering of the newspaper changed frequently. Rice’s volume numbers recorded the years as a weekly paper, since 1845, whereas Brown chose to add four more years, to reflect the bimonthly PW 1841-1845.] The Virginia-based Watchman and Observer ran a very popular series on “Uncle Tom Logic” by Theophilus (the Rev. George Junkin, president of Washington College in Lexington, Virginia), which criticized Stowe on many levels, not least for giving her African-American characters the sensibilities of the most highly educated whites. Junkin (who would return to his native Pennsylvania in 1861 after being dismissed for refusing to fly the Confederate flag) did admit “the argument of these volumes to be good and logical, and from premises too, fair and just, to this end; viz: that many slave laws require to be amended, for the prevention of two great evils: the separation of husband and wife (except for crime) and of young children from their mothers. Public sentiment in these two points, is greatly ahead of the law in most states. . . Let the marital relation be recognised and regulated everywhere by just and Christian laws; and let children under a certain age be always an appendage of the mother and not separable from her.” Theophilus, “Uncle Tom Logic No. VIII. Gratuitous Assumptions” W&O 9.34 (March 30, 1854) 133.
“Divisions on the Slavery Question” PW (March 22, 1855).
“Dr Breckinridge's Letter,” PW (September 6, 1855). Other responses to the caning of Sumner include Nathan L. Rice, in the St. Louis Presbyterian of June 19, 1856, who thought that both sides revealed the folly that had possessed Washington, and called for the election of wise rulers.
Editorial, “Signs of the Times” PW (June 5, 1856) 150 and L, “The Slavery Question,” PW (June 5, 1856) 151. If the northwest includes all of Ohio, then the author would be Henry G. Comingo of First Presbyterian, Steubenville (410 communicant members), but if Ohio is excluded, then the author is likely Samuel Newell of Paris, Illinois (257 communicant members). Possibly, since Steubenville was in the Pittsburgh orbit (which was no longer considered part of the northwest, Nathaniel West, Jr., of Central Presbyterian, Cincinnati, is intended (393 communicant members). The universality of his claims will be shown false in what follows.
Editorials, PW (July 3, 1856), (October 2, 1856).
PW (Nov 6, 1856). Old School newspapers across the country concurred with Monfort in this matter.
PW 16.14(December 25, 1856).
“Our Church and Slavery” PW (Nov 6, 1856) 26.
“Presbyterian Church and Slavery,” PW 16.19 (January 29, 1857).
Veritas, “The Truth of the Question” PW 16.22 (February 19, 1857).
H. S. Fullerton, “Our Church and Slavery” PW 16.43 (July 16, 1857) 170.
Fullerton, “Our Church and Slavery, No II” PW 16.44 (July 23, 1857).
PW 16.43 (July 16, 1857) 170.
Clericus, “Church and Slavery” PW 16.44 (July 23, 1857).
“Brother Fullerton’s Second Article,” PW 16.44 (July 23, 1857).
“What the Presbyterian Thinks” PW (October 29, 1857).
A Member of the Assembly of 1818, “Southern Presbyterian Review” PW 18.7 (November 4, 1858) 25.
“Letter from Rev. J. S. Fullerton of Mt Vernon Iowa” Presbyter 18.27 (March 24, 1859).
Quoted in “Two Views” Presbyter (May 19, 1859). In response Monfort cited Cortland Van Rensselaer’s recent articles in the Presbyterian Magazine, along with Nathan L. Rice and R. J. Breckinridge, all of whom were conservatives who affirmed that the Assembly had in fact reaffirmed 1818 in 1846. McInnis replied with “No Law to Repeal” True Witness 6.30 (October 15, 1859).
N. L. Rice, “Anti-Slavery Lectures” from the St. Louis Presbyterian, W&O 10.12 (October 26, 1854). With Rice as the editor of the St. Louis Presbyterian, the paper began to draw on a wider geographical area, including much of Illinois.
See chapter seven. Even with the railroads and steamships, travel from St. Louis to New York City still took around a week. (See “Notes of an Excursion to St. Louis,” Presbyterian Magazine 1.7 (July, 1851). The Assembly took only the last two weeks of May that year, but Rice was delayed by his assignment in Rhode Island until July.
St. Louis Presbyterian (September 25, 1856)
“The Presbyterian Press” St. Louis Presbyterian 13.16 (October 16, 1856).
St. Louis Presbyterian 13.20 (November 13, 1856). For more on the election of 1856, see Tyler Anbinder, Nativism and Slavery: The Northern Know Nothings and the Politics of the 1850s (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992) chapter 9.
E. D. MacMaster, A Theological Seminary for the North-West (n.p., n.d.) [Union Theological Seminary Archives]. The reference to the size of the northwest in relation to Scotland indicates an awareness of the magnitude of the task–and a memory of the days when the Presbyterian Church of Scotland was the one and only church.
CP 1.42 (October 19, 1856); PH 26.10 (Nov 6, 1856). The timing could not have been worse. Besides the divisive issue of slavery, the Panic of 1857 rendered fund-raising nearly impossible.
“The Seminary Movement” St. Louis Presbyterian (Oct 23, 1856).
PW 16.27 (Feb 5, 1857).
PH 26.13 (Nov 27, 1856). Together with other votes that Iowa gave, this suggests that Iowa had fairly close ties with Missouri, and hints at a conception of the west that is more oriented toward the Mississippi River than either Chicago or the Ohio River.
“Slavery” St. Louis Presbyterian (January 22, 1857).
“Slavery” St. Louis Presbyterian (January 22, 1857). This essay was reprinted the following week, with several hundred extra copies printed for wide distribution throughout the church. His editorial skirmishing with Monfort continued nearly every week for the next two months. Rice suggested on March 5 that he had the documents to prove his case. William Hill, editor of the Presbyterian Herald urged the two editors to print each other’s responses or else their readers would only hear half the story. PH 26.20 (Jan 15, 1857). Neither side fully complied with this request, and one has to read both papers to find out what the debate was really about.
St. Louis Presbyterian 14.9 (August 27, 1857).
“Theological Seminary of the North West” Presbyterian Magazine 7.6 (June, 1857) 262-3. Monfort, as usual, was the one encouraging the new deliverance on slavery.
A Ruling Elder to Cortland Van Rensselaer, “Theological Seminary of the North West” PW 16.45 (July 30, 1857) 177.
“The Slavery Agitation in the Presbyterian Church” PH (August 6, 1857).
“Predictions” PH (August 6, 1857).
“Presbyterian Theological Seminary of the North West: Meeting of the Board of Directors” PH 27.12 (Sept 17, 1857).
“Presbyterian Theological Seminary of the North West: Meeting of the Board of Directors” PH 27.12 (Sept 17, 1857).
“North West Theological Seminary” PH 27.14 (October 1, 1857).
PH 27.15 (October 8, 1857).
Hutchinson suggests that McCormick had been attempting to connect the northwest with the south ever since his arrival in Chicago. William T. Hutchinson, Cyrus Hall McCormick (New York: The Century Co., 1930) I:259. The following year, 1858, the United States Supreme Court ruled against McCormick in a patent infringement lawsuit. The judge who delivered the opinion was Robert Grier, also an Old School Presbyterian ruling elder. (448)
E. D. MacMaster, “A Card” PW 17.5 (Oct 22, 1857).
Nathan L. Rice, North Western Theological Seminary (np, nd ) 6. [Archives, Union Theological Seminary].
Spring was the brother of the Rev. Gardiner Spring of the Brick Church, New York City. Hutchinson, II:10.
Ibid., 12-14. Erasmus Darwin MacMaster to Charles A. Spring, May 18th, 1857.
Ibid., 16-17. Erasmus Darwin MacMaster to Charles A. Spring, July14, 1857.
“The Seminary of the Northwest” Presbyterian Magazine 8.1 (January, 1858) 42.
Presbyterian Magazine 8.2 (February, 1858); see also Presbyterian Expositor 1.2 (January, 1858) 94-95.
Richardson was a native of Kentucky and a Princeton Seminary graduate (‘48), but was not a very strong presence in Chicago.
Henry never attended an Old School seminary.
“The Seminary Matter” Presbyterian Expositor 1.1 (Dec, 1857) 44.
Marilee Munger Scroggs, A Light in the City: The Fourth Presbyterian Church of Chicago (Published by the Fourth Presbyterian Church of Chicago, 1990) 11.
Ibid., 11, citing Hutchinson's McCormick p13. Scroggs points out, however, that McCormick came to the rescue of the congregation when creditors threatened to foreclose in 1865: “he was a very generous man, especially in pursuit of what he considered to be righteous--even godly--causes. He believed that his wealth was particularly valuable because it could be used to help others; but he adamantly resisted allowing his money to be used for purposes he could not support. . . . McCormick pursued his goals single-mindedly, and at this period of his life a primary goal was the preservation of the Union. If he could prevent it, the slavery question would not split the nation.”
Letter from the Hon. John Wilson, PW 17.16 (January 7, 1858). Wilson was a member of South Church, and was formerly Commissioner of the General Land Office under President Pierce.
The frustration boiled over in a particularly nasty attack on Rice’s replacement in St. Louis, James A. Paige. Paige had referred to Monfort’s “schismatic faction which lately failed to establish a sectional Seminary at Chicago,” to which Monfort replied by calling Paige, “a quondam Ohioan, in whose brief editorial career the acute inflamation of ecclesiastical acclimation has reached the point, as the doctors say, when it must necessarily soon terminate in resolution, suppuration or mortification.” Paige replied with mockery: “Horror! ourself the sole subject of a long article, and that by a Doctor of Divinity in his wrath!. . . We were born in Massachusetts, raised in Indiana and once resided in Ohio. But does he reproach us for having lived there?. . . Or does he mean that Ohio is so intensely abolitionist hat, to have once breathed its air, a man must become as fanatical and hostile to everything Southern as himself?” Monfort had spoken of Paige’s editorial as “born of the viper. We greatly regret that Mr. Paige fell into a fit of puerile pugnacity.” To which Paige replied: “And so do we, considering the object.” Paige, “Odium Theologicum” St. Louis Presbyterian (June 24, 1858) 196.
Monfort’s tone was resigned but hopeful in the PW 18.3, 5 (October 7, 21, 1858); Rice was confident that the northwest would finally get a seminary that would not bow to sectional jealousies, but would be faithful in building up the whole church. “Northwestern Theological Seminary” Presbyterian Expositor 1.12 (November 1858) 663.
“Location of the Seminary” from the Indianapolis Daily Journal, Presbyter 18.23 (Feb 17, 1859). Other leaders of the Indianapolis movement included ministers Holliday and David Stevenson, and elders Ray Sheets and McIntire of Indianapolis and Jesse L. Williams and Judge Hanna of Ft Wayne. The various offers are described in “General Assembly” CP 4.23 (June 4, 1859) 89.
A Director, “Theological Seminary of the North West” Presbyter 18.24 (Feb 24, 1859) 90. “Candidates” refers to those under care of presbyteries, and does not reflect seminary attendance. It includes many who were still in college.
Presbyter (February-April, 1859).
“The Seminary War” Presbyter 18.30 (April 14, 1859).
“The Presbyter and the Seminary War” PH 28.43 (April 21, 1859).
“General Assembly,” Presbyterian 29.23 (June 4, 1859) 92.
“North West Theological Seminary” CP 4.30 (July 23, 1859) 117.
“General Assembly,” Presbyterian 29.23 (June 4, 1859) 89.
“General Assembly,” Presbyterian 29.23 (June 4, 1859) 89.
“North West Theological Seminary,” CP 4.30 (July 23, 1859) 117. The official vote was 253-71 (due to the practice of allowing absent members to record their votes, so long as the outcome was not altered).
“General Assembly” CP 4.23 (June 4, 1859) 90. (Only two of the thirteen men came from the northwestern synods).
“General Assembly,” Presbyterian 29.23 (June 4, 1859) 94.
“Editorial Correspondence” CP 4.23 (June 4, 1859) 90.
This anti-party mentality mirrored that of antebellum political culture. See Rogan Kersh, Dreams of a More Perfect Union (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2001).
Note that the reporter frequently lapses into the third person. “General Assembly” CP 4.24 (June 11, 1859) 93. The reporter for the Presbyterian claimed that MacMaster read the speech. “General Assembly,” Presbyterian 29.23 (June 4, 1859) 94.
The speech was later printed as The Presbyterian theological seminary of the north‑west: speech in the general assembly of the Presbyterian Church, May 30th, 1859 (Cincinnati: Gazette Co. Steam Print, 1859), which compared with the above report appears to be a faithful transcription. Hodge later reviewed it in the Princeton Review, to which MacMaster replied in the Presbyter.
CP 4.25 (June 18, 1859) 98.
“General Assembly” CP 4.24 (June 11, 1859) 93.
Willis Lord (1809-1888) was born in Connecticut, briefly attended PTS in 1833, and had previously served as a colleague of Rice’s at Cincinnati Seminary. He was called from the Second Presbyterian Church in Brooklyn. [Ecclesiastical History].
Leroy Jones Halsey (1812-1896) was born in Virginia, graduated from PTS in 1840, and was called from Chestnut Street Church in Louisville, Kentucky. [Pastoral Theology].
“Old School General Assembly” from the Journal of Commerce, printed in the CP 4.24 (June 11, 1859) 93.
Presbyter 18.38 (June 9, 1859).
“Dr MacMaster's Speech” Presbyter 18.39 (June 16, 1859).
Vindex, “The Presbyter on Dr MacMaster's Speech” Presbyter 18.41 (June 30, 1859).
“Vindex” Presbyter 18.41 (June 30, 1859).
“The North-West Seminary” Presbyter 18.42 (July 7, 1859).
“Synod at Hillsborough” Presbyter 19.3 (Oct 6, 1859) 10.
Presbyter 19.7 (Nov 3, 1859).
R. S., “Synod of Southern Iowa” Presbyter 19.9 (Nov 17, 1859).
“North West Theological Seminary” CP 4.30 (July 23, 1859) 117; “Dr. MacMaster’s Speech” Presbyter 18.39 (June 16, 1859).
Cited in “The Assembly and the Seminary” Presbyter 18.40 (June 23, 1859).
Charles Hodge, “General Assembly” BRPR 31.3 (July, 1859) 590.
Charles Hodge, “General Assembly” BRPR 31.3 (July, 1859) 591.
Charles Hodge, “General Assembly” BRPR 31.3 (July, 1859) 592.
EDM, “Reply to the Criticism of the Princeton Review on Dr MacM's Speech” Presbyter 18.51 (September 8, 1859). MacMaster had originally submitted it to the Princeton Review, but Hodge declined to publish it on the grounds that the Review was not the place for such exchanges. Monfort added an editorial note that complained that MacMaster was giving up the distinction between slavery and slaveholding–which Monfort still found essential. MacMaster’s failure to distinguish between “real estate” and “chattels” is somewhat strange for one who claimed to have thoroughly studied the southern slave codes.
Whitmarsh, “Dr. Rice on Slavery,” Presbyter 19.19 (January 26, 1860).
“Dr Rice's Lectures on Slavery,” Presbyter 19.27 (March 22, 1860) 106.
“Dr Rice on Slavery” PH 29.35 (March 1, 1860).
PH 29.37 (March 15, 1860).
“Presbyterian Expositor,” Presbyter 19.17 (Jan 12, 1860).
While as late as 1855 the Presbyterian Banner had insisted that since the Constitution left slavery to the states, it refrain from agitating on slavery, [Editorial, “American Slavery,” PB 4.1 (Sept 29, 1855)], by 1860 David McKinney had finally had enough of the southern proslavery rhetoric. When the Central Presbyterian declared that the church did not have the right to interfere with slavery because slavery was a civil relation, McKinney could not help but ask what they meant by “civil relation.” He retorted that
if slavery is the carrying out of that law by the master--ruling his servant; giving him no right in nor control over his person, time, or the fruits of his toil; selling from him his children; into distant and perpetual bondage; denying him the sacredness of marriage; separating him from the woman whom he claims as his wife, by selling the one or the other to a far-off master; preventing him from learning to read, and so shutting him out from a perusal of God's Word and from all the joy and edification which comes from the glorious arts of writing and printing; and keeping him from worship, or restricting his worship according to the master's whim and pleasure--if this is slavery, then we say again, the Church has a right to interfere with slavery. Not only has she the right, but she is bound to interfere with such iniquity and oppression.
The Central Presbyterian had objected that McKinney’s view would turn “the Church into an umpire to decide on the expediency or legitimacy not only of slavery, but of all other civil institutions. It was bad enough when the ecclesiastical was subordinate to the civil. But it is downright Popery in its most objectionable form, when it is reversed as the Banner would reverse it, by giving the Church the right to interfere with a civil institution.” But now McKinney replied that if “man by his institutions, should annul God's law,” then it was incumbent upon the church to say something. McKinney, “What Does it Mean?” Presbyterian Banner 8.38 (June 9, 1860).
Rice’s health was broken and his doctors assured him that the triple load would soon kill him. In 1869, Rice returned to Missouri to preside over Westminster College–the literary and theological institution of the independent Synod of Missouri (from 1870-1874 the only purely Old School church in the United States). When the Missouri Synod finally entered the Southern Presbyterian Church, he returned to the northern Assembly, spending his final years teaching theology at Danville Theological Seminary (1874-77). When Rice left Chicago, Cyrus McCormick sold his interest in both of the city’s Democratic political papers, declined to continue supporting the Presbyterian Expositor, and spent most of the war living in New York, attending Fifth Avenue Church as well. A. H., “Letter from Illinois,” Presbyterian 31.17 (April 27, 1861) 66. As for their friends and colleagues in Chicago, both Willis Lord and Charles Spring voted for the Spring Resolutions at the 1861 General Assembly. They were conservative Republicans, as were most of McCormick’s friends, lawyers, and office employees (while McCormick did not apply a political test to his business relations, he did surround himself with Presbyterians (Hutchinson, II:25, 39). The Rev. Fielding N. Ewing, a close friend of McCormick’s, appears to have been one of the few Democrats around McCormick, revealed by Ewing’s support for Vallandigham (28).
One of the most significant exceptions was E. D. MacMaster, “The Princeton Review on the State of the Country,” Presbyter 20.21 (February 14, 1861) 81.
“Rev. Dr. E. D. MacMaster” Presbyter (December 19, 1866); cf. “Rev. Dr. E. D. MacMaster” Presbyter (June 20, 1866).
 After a long, ugly attempt by MacMaster’s friends to wrest McCormick’s money for MacMaster’s purposes, the General Assembly returned the seminary to the control of Rice’s old friends–just in time for the Old School/New School reunion of 1869. For the Seminary controversy, see also Hutchinson, II: chapters 6-7. Hutchinson notes that McCormick admired MacMaster’s integrity and contributed towards MacMaster’s monument at Xenia, Ohio. (II:217).