The GOSPEL TRUTH
CHARLES G. FINNEY
To Arthur Tappan
30 April 1836
[MS in Finney Papers # 1215]
In early August 1835, William Green Jr, one of the leaders of the Chatham Street Chapel in New York, was in Oberlin helping Finney complete a book of sermons. On his way back home he wrote to Finney from Elyria. The letter, dated 15 August, is missing from the Finney Papers, but the Calendar of the Papers briefly describes its contents:
Question of Free Church attitude towards the promiscuous seating of colored people. Prayer meeting in Elyria.
After his return to New York, Green wrote again to Finney, on 28 August, referring to this letter:
I wrote you on my way, to send me your & Weld's opinion about introducing collateral questions into the Anti Slavery question - I want to make use of it -- I find here, that if Anti Slavery was the only question we could bring to bear a much stronger array of Moral power, I wish Weld would use his influence & get Birney to do so, upon the Executive Come.
In September 1835, Shipherd received a letter from Green in which he wrote:
Ask bro. Finney not to forget to bring bro Weld & Birney's influence on both the Tappans to separate the Amalgamation question from the Abolition question, & hold before the public only 1 Question - Abolish Slavery - We can take up the subject to elevating the Cold people to all their privileges after we have settled the Abolition Subject = & by following the proposed course to driving one question only at present, we shall gain a great accession of strength.
Lewis Tappan recorded in his Diary under the date, March 19 1836:
Sent a letter to Rev C. G. Finney enclosing an extract from T.D. Weld, on the subject of intercourse with people of color. Mr F. had stated that T.D.W. was opposed to my views on that subject. I wrote to him for his views and in sending it to Mr. Finney I accompanied it with a short letter expostulating with him on the course he has taken respecting cold people--shunning to treat them as the gospel requires.
This morning Mr Geo Whipple brot me a letter fr C.G.F. to T.D.W. saying Mr F. wished me to read it before he sent it. The letter began by saying C.G.F. endorsed an extract fr. T.D.W's letter to LT with remarks of LT & went on to say that T.D.W. had altered his views essentially since he & C.G.F. conversed together in Ohio unless LT had garbled his letter respecting the proper treatment of cold people. On reading thus far I stopped, feeling indignant, & said to br Whipple "I will not read the letter". He tried to induce me to do it, but I peremptorily refused, & gave him TDW's letter to take to C.G.F. In the course of the day I sent Mr. W a copy of my letter to T.D.W. to which his was an answer in part.
It is a lamentable thing to have a falling out with so good a man as br Finney, & I hope I did not do wrong. Garbling, to my mind, implies fraud. & being conscious of innocence in sending C.G.F. faithful extracts from T.D.Ws letter I could not bear an intimation of unfairness, & did not think it was proper in me to read a letter containing such an insinuation.
I felt anger but not passion.
I am satisfied C.G.F. is wrong & has unjust suspicions of me. Last year, in another matter, he accused me of "pious fraud", wh I thot wholly unmerited.
Theodore Weld wrote to Tappan from Rochester on 5 April:
I was grieved and sick at heart [over] that part of your letter in which you speak of our dear brother Finney very like vindictiveness. Do search your heart, and see if you exercise towards him the "charity which suffereth long and is kind." What you say about his volume with a portrait!! (which I have no idea he knew anything about), and "Dr. Finney"!! and that you shall not give another cent for the Oberlin Seminary, etc., made me groan aloud. I know Finney is not a perfect man, and if he is influenced by the motives which you suppose in this matter he has greater defects than I ever dreamed of or do now, but yet take him for all in all, when shall we look on his like again? I do believe your heart is not right toward him.
Tappan's diary, under the date April 6, reads:
I have observed that when the subject of acting out our professed principles in treating men irrespective of color is discussed heat is always produced. I anticipate that the battle is to be fought here, & if ever there is a split in our ranks it will arise form collision on this point.
In the evening wrote a long letter to T.D.W. chiefly about C. G. Finney's policy etc with regard to the slavery question.
Mr Finney called at the store today, & had considerable conversation with my brother & myself. My bro expressed his views very freely respecting Mr F's conduct on the slavery question, & said he wd not give any more to the Oberlin Institute while he thus acted. I had previously said that I doubted whether I shd give more while Mr F was doing so much injury to the anti s cause. But my br & myself have conversed but little about it. I have never tried to influence him not to give, & yet it is possible I shall be accused of this.
I told br F. what he had done & what he had omitted to do on the slavery question, & that he had treated me very wrong in intimating that I had garbled br. Weld's letter, of wh I had furnished br. F with an extract. He, on the other hand, spoke of my letter to br Weld respecting Mr W as written with bad feeling & very unjust toward him.
Mr F said very emphatically I shall not be influenced in my conduct by yr br & yr threats not to pay more money. I replied I suppose not, we do not wish or expect you to be, but we must withhold our money if the condition on wh it was given is not complied with.
I lament having such a discordance with Mr F whom I love & respect on many accounts, but I believe his views and practices on the s. question have done much injury, & that the inculcation of them on students will be very injurious.
Afterwards called on Mr & Mrs Finney, who expect to leave for Ohio tomorrow. I felt kindly toward them, & he appeared to towards me. Differing from br. F as I do on the slavery question I love him for his many excellent qualities.
Finney's letter is addressed: Arthur Tappan Esqe.
New York 30th April 1836.
Dr. Br. Tappan.
I feel so anxious about the movements of the
Abolitionists just at the present state of the question, that every
thing should be conducted wisely that I feel constrained before
I leave N. York to drop a few suggestions to you upon paper.
I wish to make them with that christian frankness & kindness
which becomes a di[s]ciple of Christ, & especially when speaking upon
a subject of universal interest at a junction like the present.
It is I think manifest that you & Br. Lewis & I know not how
many other leading Abolitionists are in danger of throwing
us all aback in our Abolition movements, by introducing
& crowding upon the publick just now the principle of
Amalgamation. I use this term because the principle
for which you contend is nothing but full length Amalgamation.
If no distinction is to be made between white & colored people
what is this but Amalgamation.  Now Dr Br. I wish to be
fully understood. I admit that the distinction on account
of color & some peculiarities of physical organization, is
a silly & often a wicked prejudice. I say often, because I
do not believe that it always is a wicked prejudice. A man
may certainly from constitutional taste feel unwilling to
mar[r]y a colored woman or have a daughter mar[r]y a
colored man & yet to be a devoted friend of the colored people
I doubt if this is not true with yourself.
I think my Dr. Br. that you err in supposing that the
principle of Abolition & Amalgamation are identical.
& that the former can not be carried without first settling
Now I suppose in the first place that the questions are
intirely distinct. Abolition is a question of flagrant &
unblushing wrong. A direct & outrageous violation of
fundamental right. The other is a question of prejudice
that does not necessarily deprive any man of any positive
right. I know that it often & generally results in injurious
treatment in many respects. Yet it is not what logicians
call a wrong "per se." [or a] wrong in itself. That it is not in itself wrong
& necessarily & always sinful for a man to be unwilling
to adopt in practice the principle of Amalgamation
is I think as evident as that we have constitutional tastes
xNow it appears to me that to make these two questions
identical is to give the opposers of Abolition a great
advantage over us in point of argument, & that to
bring forward & insist upon Amalgamation just now
would do infinite mischief to our cause. So fully am
I convinced of this that I feel it my bounden duty
to expostulate & entreat that this point may be let alone
until we can carry the question of Abolition.x
I do not believe that were the publick [mind] never so well
prepared for the question that they could ever be
made to look at the two questions as one, & involving
the same principle. I have weighed & tried to look at the
subject on all sides & can not but view them as very
different questions. You think My Dr. Br. that I am
doing great mischief to the cause in keeping the
[note in the margin]
P.S. It has occurred to me that You may object to the term "amalgamation." I have used it because it expresses just the principle / for which I understand you to contend. Rely upon it my Dr. Br. that if you contend for the principle you can / not so express it but that the enemies of the cause will apply to it its true meaning.
Inserted in the body of the letter.
subject of amalgamation out of view as much a[s] possible.
But Dr. Br dont think me unkind in saying that it is
my ripe conviction, after much prayer & thought, that if
you press this point, you will, with all your honest
devotion to the cause, injure Abolition more than
any man in the world. I love & respect you too
sincerely to let you proceed without remonstrance.
Br. Lewis, & I now fear yourself, think my views are
the result of halfway Abolitionism, & my opinions seem
for that reason to have no weight. Now Dr. Br. this consideration
although it grieves, does not offend me. Nor shall it
deter me from speaking freely. Br Lewis used to have
confidence in my judgment. But unfortunately our
differing upon this point has destroyed my influence
with him. I will therefore speak to you, although from what
passed the other day, I perceive you strongly sympathise
with him. Br. Lewis lays great stress upon the opinion
of Br Weld & Birney. Now I am sure that last summer
& fall Welds opinion & mine on the expediency of introducing
this question were intirely coincident, & I feel very confident
that Weld informed me that Birney & himself thought alike.
But if Weld & Birney did differ with me on this subject
I know not why I should yield my judgement to theirs.
I suppose that in the Providence of God, I have had
much greater opportunities of witnessing the workings
& results of great popular excitements than either of them.
xAs a matter of Philosophy it is certainly unwise &
unphilosophical to distract the publick attention with
two questions at the same time in stead of one.x
In this there is generally a great want of experience
among good men. xThe true Philosophy of promoting
& consummating an excitement the&publick action upon
any subject is to confine the publick mind to a point.x
To keep out of view subordinate & collateral points & press
until you carry the main question. xRevivals of religion
afford almost endless illustrations of this. Introduce
Baptism, Election or any other doctrine that does
not bear on the question of immediate acceptance
of christ & you either kill or retard the work. To
convince ministers of this, until it has been too late,
I have sometimes found to be impossible. But let any
man practically overlook this fundamental law
of mind, & he will learn by experience what he needs
to know.x The question of Abolition has already been greatly
embarrassed by partially bring[ing] this subject forward
previous to the mobs; as any one may know by reading
the newspapers of that period. Indeed the great amount
of slang & rage was on the subject of Amalgamation.
Why should we have these scenes acted over again. Let us
take issue withem [them] on the great question of the sinfulness
of slavery & the duty of immediate emancipation; & for the
time being, refuse to [be] led into controversy on any collateral
point. This is certainly wise, & I firmly believe that
any other course will hinder the consummation of
the work for years.
Dr. Br. let me say a word to you, without offence, about
Br. Lewis. He is your brother, & he is my brother also. But
the interests of the common cause demand that we should
understand eachother. xI look upon Br. L. to be one of the
most talented & efficient laymen of my acquaintance, &
as possessing uncommon executive talents; but I feel
constrained to say, that in a great popular excitement
where a question requires moderation & the utmost extent
of christian meekness forbearance & candor; & when violent
measures are by all means to be avoided, & the question
carried by force of truth without tumult, in such a
case, I mean no disparagement to Br. L. when I say
I should not choose him as a leader, & I mean
no flattery when I say that I should in such a case
prefer yourself as a counsellor & leader to him.x
I think the present is a time when there should be an
understanding among all the friends of the oppressed.
It is certainly now no time for us to be at war among
ourselves, & let differences of opinion on minor points
interrupt the harmony of our movements. It is no time
to recriminate & use hard names & accuse eachother
of not being real friends to the cause because we differ
upont [sic] prudential points; & sure I am, if we love the
cause more than we love our own reputation we shall
not fall out by the way. At least I should think so.
You will perceive that it is not at all my intention in
this letter to agree the questions in difference between us. I
have only time to make a few suggestions & doubt not they
will be recd in the same spirit of Christian kindness with
which they are written. I hope Weld will attend the
Anniversaries. I used all my influence with him
last fall to induce him to come to the city & converse
this matter over with the Executive committe[e], but
he was too busy. I wish if he comes that you would
hand him this letter & look at the question of
amalgamation in all its bearings. I believe no man is
farther from sympathising with negro haters than myself &
yet I would at present be more on my g[u]ard in relation
to introducing the Amalgamation question than at
almost any former period.
I can not give you at present my views on the subject
of the course pursued by the free churches in recommending
the colored people at present, as formerly, to sit by themselves
in church. I think I am certain, so far as I know the
feelings of christians, in my own church, it does not arise
from any hostile feelings toward the colored people, but
arises out of [a] regard to the good of the slaves & the quiet
& peace of the colored people in this city. To use Welds
expression, the bringing forward & insisting upon the principle
of Amalgamation at the present time "is to set them
up as a targate to be fired at from every quarter"
I am unwilling to see the indignation & rage of the lawless
mob excited against them again unless it is indispensable
to the prosperity of the cause of Abolition, which I am
confident it is not. xMy experience, my conscience, my judgment
& my heart are opposed to the introduction of this question
of Amalgamation at the present juncture. Dr. Br. I am
as much interested in the cause as yourself & certainly have
as good a right to form & express my own opinion without being
set down as an enemy or half hearted friend to the cause.
Whatever others may think of me, I am resolved to manifest
my attachment to the cause, by freely giving my opinion
& recording my testimony against any measure or the
confounding of any principles that will in my judgment
injure the cause. the oppressed.x
I am informed that the Biblical Repertory of Princeton has
come out with the most shew of argument, by far, of any
thing that has appeared in defence of slavery. I have not
seen it. But am glad they have published as they have
probably said all that can be said on that side of the
question. This is in point. It is the great question to be settled
first. Now Weld has been over the subject so much that he
can probably answer it more readily than any other man.
If he comes here I hope you will insist upont [sic] his sitting down
& giving the subject a thorough investigation. If he wont do it
some of us at Oberlin must get, if possible, time to do it &
do it thoroughly. Yours in the best of bonds.
C. G. Finney
[The following sections are written along the left hand margin of page 3]
I beg of you not to imagine as you intimated the other day that the difference between us is analogous to the difference / between the tetotal & ardent spirit pledge in temperance. There the question & principle is one, over alcohol / Here the questions and principles are 2. Slavery & prejudice.
[The following section has been erased by Finney]
I have referred to br Lewis & expressed my opinion of him merely because I feared that you have greater confidence in / his judgment than in your own. That therefore you may be led to act rather in defference to his judgment than from / your own independant convictions of duty. Had I time I should like to tell you all my heart upon the subject of this letter as / I feel as if immense interests were at stake.