The GOSPEL TRUTH
CHARLES G. FINNEY
To Richard Butler
7 March 1870
[Manuscript in the hand-writing of Rebecca Finney, in Finney Papers, microfilm, roll 6, # 2116 (wrongly dated 1871 in the Index and Calendar of the Finney Papers). This was evidently a copy of the letter.]
Oberlin 7th March 1870
Richard Butler Esq.
Dear Sir, Yours of this date is rec'd.
I do not intend to have any controversy with you, but will
say a few words in reply to yours.
1. I said nothing in my pulpit relating to the action of
the school board except to promote peace. As to the pro-
priety of changing superintendents at a great expense to
the tax I said nothing. I only spoke of an accomplished
fact, & of that, only as a question of moral right.
The board changed the superintendent at a great ex-
pense to the tax payers & supporters of the school,
knowing that a very large & influential portion of those sup-
porters were strongly opposed to such action. When
requested to resign & submit the question to the people
whose interests were to be affected by the decision, they
refused to take the voice of the people. I thought this
wrong & a dangerous precedent to be allowed without
reproof. I said so, as a teacher of religion. I think so,
still, & however well the school may turn out, it will
not alter the morality of that act. I maintain that
no set of men have a right to Lord it over their con-
stituents, refusing to consult them, when so much
is at stake. The Board had the power, but not the right.
2. I hold that an editor, like other men, is bound to
get both sides of a controverted question before he commits
himself to one side, & if he does not, his influence must
be divisive & highly injurious.
3. I know that for a time it may be for your interest
to create a sensation by conducting a paper that will "pitch
into" every question of village controversy and give it
as much publicity as you can, but should it seem
best to you to take this course, I think you will make
a mistake at the least.
4 I do not object to your taking an interest in
our village affairs, but I do think it unwise for you to
assume that you understand us & our affairs well enough
at present to wiaely commit yourself on a partisan
5 If I understand you, you conversed on the subject
with those only who sustained the Board.
6. Perhaps I shall think that it was desirable to have a
change when I know all the facts. On that question I have
not formed a settled opinion. I take issue with the manner
of doing it, & I believe the spirit & manner of doing it, regardless
or in spite of the expressed remonstrance of the great
mass of those of their constituents who were most concerned in
the conduct, prosperity, & support of the school, was ill
judged, rash, & highly calculated to destroy the school
& produce in the community a sense of wrong
which it will be hard to forget.
7. Mr. Sedgwick is one of our most valued citizens.
Your paper & leader have gone before him to his new
field of labor. Your article has surprised & deeply
wounded not only him, but many of the best & most
valued & influential citizens of this place. If your
circulation were confined to this village where he is well
known it were different, but you have given
your views to the winds after having heard one side.
It would much surprise the people to be told that
Mr. Sedgwick's speech confirmed all you had
I write this privately, & as your friend. I pray
you receive it, as kindly as it is intended.
God bless you, My Dr. Sir.
C. G. Finney