Baptists and the American Civil War: October 16, 1863

californiaWhile few in numbers, Baptists nonetheless have established a solid presence in the Western state of California.

Delegates from the San Fransisco Baptist Association meet this month and express their position, albeit not quite unanimously, regarding the war raging far from their new homes and churches: all are transplants, many from the North, but some from the South (Confederate sympathies in California being strongest much further south in Los Angeles).

The Sacramento newspaper covers the meeting, providing an account of the dialogue as an observer.

The business of this body, now in session in this city, was resumed yesterday (Monday) morning. The delegation of the Pacific Association and their corresponding letter were received. Some clergymen of other denominations in this city were introduced to the body, viz: Rev. M. C. Brlggs, of the Methodist Church ; Rev. Ben. E S. Ely, of the Presbyterian Church ; and Rev. J. E. Dwinell, of the Congregational Church. Reports of various Committees were presented, and elicited much spirited discussion. The report on Sabbath Schools was offered and adopted. Rev. O. C. Wheeler read an obituary report relating to the death of the Rev. Bejamin Brierly, of Nevada. This was followed with extended remarks by several ministers, eulogizing the deceased. At the beginning of the afternoon session, the Circular Letter to the Churches — on “The Christian Privilege of joy” – was read by its author, Rev. H. A. Sawtelle The report on Education occupied some two hours of the session and called forth expressions that prove the Association ripe for an educational movement. Immediate steps will be taken looking to the establishment of an institution of learning. The report of Religious Publications pointed out an important change desirable to be made in the financial support of the denominational paper. The report was adopted, and $600 raised on the floor for the paper. The evening session was partially occupied in considering the subject of Home Evangelization. Effective speeches were made by Revs. W Isaacs, C. King, D. B. Cheney, J. Roberts, J. E Barnes, A. Gould and E. R. Stockwell. In the latter part of the evening, Rev. O. C. Wheeler, from the Committee on Resolutions, offered the following: “Whereas the Government of the United States, an organization better adapted to develop the highest degree of civilization and secure to man his largest liberty to govern himself, and to honor God, has been openly wantonly and wickedly assailed by reckless, ambidious traitors — millions of her public property seized and destroyed — cities and plains laid waste and her happy people driven homeless to the prison and the grave by fire and by sword — her schools and her sanctuaries ravaged by rebels and made to reek with the blood of the wounded and dying — institutions of benevolence interrupted in their flow, and the freedom of her ministry to preach the whole gospel prohibited in large portions of her Territory; and, whereas, we believe that the system of American slavery — the “sum of all villainies,” the fruitful source of every war — was the original generative cause, has been the energizing force and is still the only formidable sustaining propaganda of this unholy war; therefore, Resolved — First — That in imitation of our Divine Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, whose humanity was so imbued with patriotism that he laid the corner stone of his kingdom, and directed the ‘beginning ‘ of the proclamation of his Gospel for ‘all nations’ to be at the Capital of his native land, and bestowed all the offices he had in his gift, for the benefit of ‘every kindred and nation and tongue and people under the whole Heaven’ upon twelve of his own countrymen we most deeply sympathize with our loved and lacerated country in this her night of toil and flow of blood. Second — That we, as individuals, desire to express through the sacred voice of this Christian organization, our readiness to contribute any amount of money we may possess, any amount of talent God has given us, any amount of toil for which He will afford us strength, and every drop of blood in our veins that may be required to sustain our country In this terrible war against the powers of darkness. Third — That we believe in the necessity or Divine power to the efficiency of human means, and therefore will most humbly and earnestly and perseveringly pray the ‘God of Armies’ to give wisdom to the officers and fidelity to the men of our land and naval forces ; to the ‘God of Battles’ to give victory to our arms and triumph to our cause ; to the ‘God of Nations’ to counsel and sustain our Chief Magistrate under the trials of his immeasurable responsibility — to guide the actions of his ministers of State — preside over the deliberations of Congress — to be present with and render effective the patriotic decrees of our Supreme and subordinate Courts and to bring our nation triumphantly through this fiery ordeal, purified by blood, enlarged in its borders, improved in its constitution and in all its laws pertaining to human obligations, to human liberty and human equality conformed to the principles of eternal justice as found in the revelations of the Divine will. Fourth — That we cordially and heartily approve of the proclamation of the Chief Magistrate of this nation, isued on the 1st of January last, as the ‘axe laid at the root of the tree,’ by which the bohon upas of human slavery, that has poisoned the intellect of half our nation, and spread its death-fraught virus through all our veins, bringing upon our whole people the curse of Divine retribution, is to be ‘hewn down and cast into the fire, its ashes scattered to the four winds of heaven,’ and Its place occupied by the tree of liberty, from whose spreading branches the scattering leaves shall forever bear to the ends of the earth the proclamation of ‘Liberty throughout all the land and to all the Inhabitants thereof.’ ” Baldwin of Grafton opposed the reception of the resolutions. He thought that the meeting was not a proper place for such a demonstration. Several gentlemen advocated their reception, among them Rev. Mr. Charlton, who made a spirited Union speech. The vote was taken on the reception and was unanimous, with the exception of two votes. Upon the motion for their adoption, Barnes of Grafton opposed the motion In a long speech which, however, had no effect, as it was evident that the resolutions would pass with a rush. The vote was taken and the motion prevailed with the exception of the votes of the two gentlemen mentioned. As was observed by one of the speakers, the members were “choking” to get a vote upon them. It was claimed that the vote was unanimous, as Baldwin and Barnes had announced their determination to withdraw previously. Rev. Mr. Hendrickson, of Stockton, formerly of Tennessee, said that the rebellion had broken up all the Baptist Seminaries, swamped all the Baptist newspapers and desolated the Baptist churches in Tennessee. Even now, he said, the only Baptist preacher in Memphis at present was a missionary from the North. Another speaker, who was much affected, mentioned having seen an army of twenty thousand men march out to the battle field, and afterwards that he saw them return, many of them brought back mangled and bleeding, and many dead. All the speakers contended that there was nothing in the resolutions which a good Baptist could not consistently vote for. The Baptists of California have shown themselves eminently sound on the Union question.

Source: “City Intelligence: San Fransisco Baptist Association,” Sacramento Daily Union, October 13, 1863 (link)