"Send Back the Money!": The Free Church of Scotland and American Slavery

By Moore, Joseph S. | The Journal of Southern History, May 2014 | Go to article overview

"Send Back the Money!": The Free Church of Scotland and American Slavery


Moore, Joseph S., The Journal of Southern History


"Send Back the Money!": The Free Church of Scotland and American Slavery. By Iain Whyte. (Cambridge, Eng.: James Clarke and Company, 2012. Pp. 175. Paper, $39.00, ISBN 978-0-227-17389-3.)

This monograph details an overlooked episode in Scottish history with Atlantic connections to the American South. The Disruption of 1843 rent in twain mainline Scottish Presbyterians over church-state separation. To raise funds for their self-supporting denomination, the newly created Free Church of Scotland commissioned a preaching tour of America. The American and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society immediately petitioned the Free Church to send back money from slaveholding congregations. Attempts by leading churchmen like Thomas Chalmers to publicly bemoan slavery, coupled with a refusal to excommunicate slaveholding Christians, enraged both sides. In 1846 Frederick Douglass drove Scottish audiences to euphoria by peppering his speeches with refrains to '"Send back that money!"' (p. 74). The minister of Charleston's Second Presbyterian Church, the Reverend Thomas Smyth, spent a trip to Britain defending his people's reputation and rebutting Douglass. The events were a tragic epitaph on Chalmers's final days; he sought to condemn slavery, protect slave owners, and spiritualize the church's mission so that evangelization trumped the humanity it sought to save. The Free Church's willingness to take slaveholders' money undermined the infant institution's legitimacy, as evidenced by accusations that Douglass was an agent of the state church. An 1846 attempt to unite evangelicals in an Evangelical Alliance was also disrupted by the Free Church's money controversy.

Scholars of church history should use this interesting controversy to illuminate the tensions rife within the division of church and state. …

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