Baptists and the American Civil War: April 23, 1861

Richard FullerA news item in the Baltimore Exchange discusses an alleged conversation that Richard Fuller (illustration), the well-known Baptist preacher who at the time is pastor of the Seventh Baptist Church in Baltimore, had with U.S. President Abraham Lincoln, a former Baptist. Fuller, a pro-slavery advocate, is also president of the slave-centric Southern Baptist Convention. His account of the conversation with Lincoln is not complimentary of the American Lincoln.

In the larger perspective, Maryland is a border state, and Lincoln is seeking to ensure that the state stays in the Union. Slavery, though diminished in influence, is still a factor in an increasingly urban, industrialized Maryland, of which Baltimore is pivotal. Fuller’s sympathies lie with the South (he is a South Carolina native):

“We learn that a delegation from five of the Young Men’s Christian Associations of Baltimore, consisting of six members of each, yesterday proceeded to Washington for an interview with the President, the purpose being to intercede with him in behalf a peaceful policy, and to entreat him not to pass troops through Baltimore or Maryland. The Rev. Dr. Fuller, of the Baptist church, accompanied the party, by invitation, as chairman, and the conversation was conducted mainly between him and Mr. Lincoln, and was not heard entire by all the members of the Convention.

Our informant, however, vouches for what we now write. He states that upon the introduction, they were received very cordially by Mr. Lincoln in a sort of rude familiarity of manner and the conversation opened by Dr. Fuller seeking to impress upon Mr. Lincoln the vast responsibility of the position he occupied, and that upon him depended the issues, of peace or war on one hand a terrible, fratricidal conflict, and on the other peace.

“But” said Mr. Lincoln, “what am I to do?”

“Why, sir, let the country know that you are disposed to recognize the independence of the Southern States. I say nothing of secession; recognize the fact that they have formed a Government of their own; that they will never be united again with the North, and peace will instantly take the place of anxiety and suspense, and war may he averted.”

“And what shall become of the revenue? I shall have no government? No resources?”

Dr. Fuller expressed the opinion that the Northern States would constitute an imposing government and furnish revenue, but our informant could not follow the exact terms of the remark.

Source: As reprinted in the Memphis Daily Avalanche, May 8, 1861, p. 1, col. 4