History of Religion in the United States

By Clifton E. Olmstead | Go to book overview

19
The Charches and the Slavery Controversy

IN THE SEVENTY-FIVE YEARS WHICH MARKED THE NASCENCE AND DECAY OF American unity, unquestionably the most serious problem vexing the American public was that of Negro slavery. Though slavery was one of the oldest and best-established institutions in American society, it had never been free from attack by humanitarians both within and without the camp of organized Christianity. For those who believed fervently in the equality of men before God slavery was an ugly blot upon the record of a nation conceived in liberty and destined to become a ray of light in a weary world. For those who viewed the institution as economically productive and vital to the fiscal well-being of the community it was a glorious provision of God defended by Scripture. It was perhaps inevitable that as conviction on both sides mounted tension should have increasedthat the issue should have become the subject of national debate which contributed to bitter conflicts over states' rights versus federalism, the admission of new states into the body politic, colonization of free Negroes, and abolitionism. Into this debate the churches entered with an ardor born of spiritual conviction and environmental stimuli, making pronounce

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