James Madison Pendleton:
A Southern Crusader Against Slavery
By Victor B. Howard *
It is generally assumed that Thomas Jefferson's death in 1826 marked a watershed in the South which divided the earlier liberal era from the later conservative and pro-slavery period that followed in the South. A new political philosophy arose that discarded much of the idealism of Jefferson, and after the departure of James G. Birney and others from the South in the 1830s only a few scattered and forlorn personalities, such as Cassius M. Clay, Moncure Conway, and Samuel Janney remained in the South to prick the Southern conscience concerning the institution of slavery. The upper South, however, contained a surprising number of native nonconformists on the slavery question, who were recruited chiefly from the professional classes in the South.1 These opponents of slavery were committed to a system of gradual emancipation usually connected with a program for eventual colonisation [sic] of the slaves in Africa. Since these antislavery advocates could not compel a hearing in the columns of the press, they did not secure an opportunity to present their case to the public except on rare occasions such as the Constitutional Convention of 1831 in Virginia, and 1849 in Kentucky.
James Madison Pendleton was such a figure, who rose to prominence during the Constitutional campaign to abolish slavery by the new Kentucky Constitution adopted in 1849. Like David Barrow, an earlier antislavery Baptist, Pendleton was born in Virginia in 1811 in Spottsylvania County. His parents moved to Christian County, Kentucky, when he was one year old.2 He grew to maturity on a three hundred acre
* Professor of History, Morehead State University.
1 Clement Eaton, The Freedom of Thought Struggle in the Old South (New York: Harper and Row, 1964), 195.
2 William Cathcart, The Baptist Encyclopedia (Philadelphia: Louis H. Everts, 1883), 897.
Kentucky farm during a period when the abolition of slavery occupied a prominent place in public discussion.3
On January 1, 1837, Pendleton entered on his pastoral service at the First Baptist Church in Bowling Green, Kentucky, a labor which would extend through twenty years. The young pastor of the Bowling Green Church immediately assumed the responsibility of bringing religion to the slaves. In 1838 slaves were admitted to the First Baptist Church of Bowling Green, and in 1839 the white congregation voted to establish a separate Negro congregation which would have "the privilege of holding their meetings" in the "church-house on the evening of the first sabbath in every month."4
As a speaker, Pendleton had perfect self-command. He appealed in a simple, clear and strong style to reason rather than emotion, always seeking the truth as his supreme purpose. As a writer, he took strong hold of his subject with a flow of words as clear and smooth as in his preaching. He never wrote anything a second time, holding that this habit fostered carelessness in writing. Pendleton's power as a debater and writer would serve him well when he became involved in the slavery controversy. In the early 1840's Pendleton wrote articles on doctrinal questions for both the Baptist Banner of Louisville and the Western Baptist Review of Frankfort. The editors of these two journals were strong pro-slavery men and they were aware of Pendleton's sentiments but they did not hesitate to ask him to become a contributor. 5
Pendleton did not shrink from discussing unpopular subjects just because he was a minister. His formula for determining where his duty lay was to ask himself: "Do they pertain to the real welfare of society and of religion?" If his conscience
3 T. T. Eaton, Reverend James Madison Pendleton (Louisville: Baptist Book Concern, 1904), 14; Asa Earl Martin, The Anti-Slavery Movement in Kentucky Prior to 1850 (Louisville: Filson Club, 1918), 44-47.
4 Church Minutes, First Baptist Church, Bowling Green, March, 1838, February, 1839; William C. Huddleston, "James Madison Pendleton: A Critical Biography," (Master of Theology Thesis, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, 1962), 55.
5 Eaton, Reverend James Madison Pendleton, 22-23, 26-27; J. M. Pendleton, Reminiscences of A Long Life (Louisville: Baptist Book Concern, 1891), 95.
answered in the affirmative, he spoke out fearlessly. With attention focused on the Mexican War in 1848, he took up the subject of war and declared it to be "at irreconcilable variance with Christianity." He saw Christianity as the means of universal abolition of war which was ruinous to the souls of men because it destroyed the philanthropic sensibilities. Man should strive for philanthropy rather than patriotism because philanthropy was not love of one's country exclusively, rather it embraced the whole human race. Pendleton, however, was not lacking in patriotism. His views on war came from his commitment to humanity which was the same source from which his antislavery sentiments sprang. He had become a slave holder for a short time when he inherited a slave boy by the will of his father. Pendleton was preparing to give the boy his freedom and send him to Liberia when the boy died. Even though he saw that slavery as it existed in the South contained many evils, Pendleton did not make the institution a question of church fellowship, nor did he make slavery a prominent topic for sermons, but he constantly reminded his parishioners of their duties as masters.6
On January 6, 1847, a weekly sheet called The Convention began to be published at Frankfort, Kentucky, by R. W. McKee. Articles for and against emancipation as well as discussion of other prospective constitutional reforms for Kentucky were printed. The Convention was continued until February 2, 1848. By this time the pro-slavery forces were better organized and less afraid of a popular vote on the question of emancipation. On January 10, 1847, the bill for a constitutional convention passed in both houses, and was sustained by a majority of the qualified voters in August.7 According to the requirements of the Constitution of 1799 the popular vote was taken again in August, 1848 resulting in a majority for the convention.8
6 The Examiner (Louisville), May 6, 1848; Christian Chronicle, (Philadelphia), September 19, 1849; Tennessee Baptist, March 3, I860.
7 George L. Willis, Kentucky Constitutions and Constitutional Conventions (Frankfort, Kentucky: State Journal Company, 1930), 31.
8 Bennett H. Young, The Constitutions of Kentucky (Louisville, Kentucky: Courier-Journal Job Printing Company, 1890), 49.
Early in 1847 the Kentucky emancipationists established The Examiner in Louisville as their organ for shaping public opinion on gradual emancipation and colonisation. On September 11, 1847, a series of articles in support of emancipation began to appear in the Examiner. When the series ended June 10, 1848, twenty installments had been published. The articles were titled "Thoughts on Emancipation" and were signed by "A Southern Kentuckian." It was not until June 10, 1848, that the Examiner announced that James Madison Pendleton was the author. In the first article Pendleton placed himself in opposition to the extension of slavery to any territory acquired from Mexico. He called for a free and open discussion of emancipation.9 Pendleton disclaimed any identification with the northern abolitionists and criticized them for their abusive statements against "the thousands of Christian ministers" who continually devoted a portion of their time to the religious improvement of the slaves, but he urged many ministers who had withdrawn from their commitment to the slave to return to the cause of the melioration of the condition of the African race. Ministers who had deserted their former sympathies, because of fear that they would be identified with abolitionism, were informed that by their indifference their influence was exerted in favor of the institution of slavery.10
In his fourth installment Pendleton urged the prominent and influential citizens of the state to come forward and consecrate their talents and service in the cause of emancipation and colonization of the slaves. "Were the cause of emancipation advocated by these distinguished gentlemen," he reasoned, "the most violent pro-slavery men would not attempt to identify it with Garrisonian abolition," and the people would begin to examine the question seriously. Pendleton did not doubt that a fair examination of slavery would lead to emancipation. He especially called on Henry Clay to come forward and re-express his sentiments of 1797. "Let him become the prominent agent in making Kentucky emphatically 'the land of the free', and a
9 The Examiner, September 11, 1847, June 10, 1848; James M. Pendleton, Reminiscences, 93; Martin, The Anti-Slavery Movement in Kentucky, 119.
10 The Examiner, September 18, October 2, 1847.
brighter wreath will adorn his brow than he ever wore as Senator and Statesman," he predicted. Pendleton journeyed to Lexington and conversed with Clay on the subject. When Clay's position was clear, Pendleton pressed for emancipation at a younger age, but Clay insisted that without a large concession to the pro-slavery feeling of the state nothing could be done.11 Within a period of four months, on February 17, 1849, Clay came out with a public letter favoring gradual emancipation and colonization. The letter gave new life to the campaign to provide for a constitutional plan to gradually abolish slavery.12
After pointing to the proverbial influence of the press, Pendleton implored the editors of the five religious journals, which represented four religious denominations in Kentucky, to employ their pens in advocacy of emancipation. It was the solemn duty of the editors of the religious press to point out the moral responsibility of slaveholders to cultivate the moral susceptibilities of the slaves, just as it was the civic responsibility of secular editors to indicate that good policy and sound political economy would be promoted by emancipation. The ministers of the gospel were called on to work for emancipation, not necessarily by making emancipation the theme of pulpits efforts, but by courageously letting it be known in their respective communities that they were friends of the African race. "A few casual remarks in favor of Emancipation frequently produce a better effect than a labored argument," Pendleton explained.13 Pendleton next turned to the consideration of the economic arguments against the continuance of slavery. "Slavery not only brings labor into disrepute, and thereby promotes idleness," he declared, "but it has much to do in cherishing a spirit of tyranny in the breasts of slaveholders." The economy of the North was compared with that of the South to the disadvantage of the South, and the economic superiority of the North was traced to the free labor system. He focused on Kentucky and
11 Ibid., October 9, 1847; Pendleton, Reminiscences, 92-93.
12 Henry Clay to Richard Pindell, New Orleans, February 17, 1849, The Watchman of the Valley (Cincinnati), March 15, 1849.
13 The Examiner, October 16, 23, 1847.
Ohio with a comparison which revealed the superiority of Ohio's labor system. He concluded with an expression of hope, "Would to heaven that we could whisper in the ear of every voter in the State, now is the time for action. Let Kentucky become a free State, and in a few years her lands would be worth more than both lands and negroes now are."14
Early in 1848 Pendleton turned aside from the consideration of the Kentucky scene and penned an article on the Wilmot Proviso. He explained that the proviso proposed to bar slavery from any territory annexed to the United States. Pendleton favored the proviso and stated that David Wilmot ought to consider the day on which he presented the proviso as "the most memorable day of his political life."15
After the series was completed in June, 1848, the editor of the Examiner announced that the articles which were written in such "candid liberal and Christian spirit" by the distinguished author would be terminated, but the author had agreed to continue as a correspondent. "The author, with manliness of a sincere and earnest advocate of truth, has given to the public his name," declared the editor. "The time is gone by, when good and true men who devote themselves to enlarging the bounds of human knowledge and Ameliorating the condition of their fellow-beings" are consumed by reproach and persecution. "A better spirit is abroad," he informed his readers. The editor, however, spoke too optimistically. "I incurred the ill will of many," recalled Pendleton more than forty years later, but he "bore it quietly."16
On January 13, 1849, the General Assembly of Kentucky passed an act "to call a convention for the purpose of readopting, amending, or changing the Constitution."17 During February the emancipation question came under more prominent discussion, and the House of Representatives of Kentucky tried to check the growth of emancipation sentiment by voting ninety-
14 Ibid., November 13, December 4, 11, 1847.
15 Ibid., February 26, 1848.
16 Ibid., June 10, 1848. Pendleton, Reminiscences, 94.
17 Lewis and Richard H. Collins, History of Kentucky (2 vols., Covington, Kentucky: Collins & Co., 1874), II, 261.
three to nothing, "That we, the Representatives of the people of Kentucky, are opposed to abolition or emancipation of slavery in any form or shape whatever except as now provided for by law and the Constitution." 18 A Constitutional Reform Convention met in Frankfort, February 5, 1849, and resolved that the convention was opposed to any change of the Constitution with reference to slavery. 19
The Louisville Journal, the Lexington Atlas, Whig journals, and the Democratic Warren Intelligencer of Bowling Green, Kentucky, came out in opposition to the agitation of the slavery question during the canvass for the revision of the Constitution in 1849. The editor of the Warren Intelligencer felt that the introduction of the slavery question could only interfere with the successful reform of the court system. He declared that when the question of emancipation was brought before the people to be decided at the ballot box, "it should come as an isolated question disconnected and unencumbered from everything else." In a letter to the Intelligencer, Pendleton reviewed the history of the efforts to secure emancipation in Kentucky and pointed out that in the Constitutional Convention of 1792 the majority declared it was not the time to consider emancipation, and the same position was taken in the Convention of 1799. "It may be inferred from your article that you are of the opinion that there will be a proper time. Will you be kind enough to tell me when?'' Pendleton queried the editor. Pendleton saw the question of remodeling of the judiciary system as the application of an external remedy to the body politic, and viewed slavery as a disease which was preying on the vitals of the body politic but was "suffered to become more and more malignant."20
Near the end of February, 1849, the Kentucky legislature repealed the law of 1833 which prohibited the importation of slaves into the state. The repeal of this law not only indicated
18 Journal of the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Kentucky 1848-1849 (Frankfort: A. G. Hodges & Co., 1849), 233-235.
19 The Daily Commonwealth (Frankfort, Kentucky), February 7, 1849.
20 Warren Intelligencer (Bowling Green, Kentucky), cited by The Examiner, March 10, 1849.
that the political sentiment of the state was opposed to emancipation but also signified that slaves would become more numerous in the state under the operation of the law, and slavery would be strengthened as an institution, unless this change in the laws was nullified by new constitutional provisions.21 Many emancipationists saw the need for compromising the question in the canvass of 1849 with assurance of securing a forthright and fair consideration in the future. Pendleton was among the leaders of this group. One of Pendleton's friends in Bowling Green, Judge Asher W. Graham, formalized the proposed compromise by suggesting that all parties agree that the new Constitution should positively prohibit the introduction of slaves into the state - a restoration of the law of 1833 as a constitutional provision. The question of emancipation was to be deferred for five years when it would be submitted to the electorate as an isolated question. In a letter to the Examiner Pendleton supported Graham's proposal. He argued that the people of Kentucky were in favor of the law of 1833 despite its repeal by the legislature. The proposal to submit the emancipation question to the electorate in the future was in harmony with democratic procedures. "The people are sovereign," Pendleton emphasized, and all should acquiesce "in the will of the majority." This compromise Pendleton reasoned would meet the objections of several political newspapers which opposed the discussion of the slavery question in the canvass because they supposed its agitation would interfere with the accomplishment of other constitutional reforms.22
On April 25, a state emancipation convention was held in Frankfort. One hundred and fifty delegates from twenty-four different counties were in attendance. Twenty-one clergymen were present, including Pendleton, who was one of the most influential delegates. The convention prepared a platform of two planks: First, the absolute prohibition of the importation of any more slaves into Kentucky, and second, the right of the people to determine the retention or abandonment of slavery by
21 The Rational Era (Washington), February 24, 1848; Liberty Hall and Cincinnati Gazette, February 15, 1849.
22 J. M. Pendleton to Editors, April 7, 1849, The Examiner, April 14, 1849.
a popular referendum when they desired it. This became known as the "open clause" of the constitution. It had been favored by Pendleton in his Examiner letter of April 7. The Convention's proposal for a plan of prospective gradual emancipation was designed to attract votes and was far more conservative than the temper of the convention debate. After the Frankfort meeting the emancipationists returned to their communities to prepare for the constitutional canvass. The Warren County emancipationists met in Bowling Green on May 12 with Pendleton presiding. He stated that the object of the meeting was to correct misapprehensions in the county. Resolutions were adopted assuring the slaveholders that their rights would not be disturbed and that the slaves would be colonised. Pendleton was appointed to a committee which drew up an address circulated as a handbill to the people. 23
In April, 1849, William C. Buck, editor of the Baptist Banner of Kentucky broke his silence on the question of emancipation in relation to the Constitutional revision in Kentucky. He indicated that his purpose was to encourage citizens to investigate the subject so that they could faithfully discharge their duties as Christians and good citizens. The Baptist Banner would not be opened to others for a discussion of the question. 24 In his second article Buck concluded that Biblical slavery was instituted and provided for "by special enactment of God" which never could have been the case if it necessarily rendered the condition of the slave worse than it otherwise would have been. 25 In his sixth article Buck stated his opposition to the schemes for gradual emancipation: First, because it was to be done at the expense of the owners; second, no provision was made for the government to colonize the slaves; and finally, no provision was made to prepare the liberated slaves for mental or moral self-government. Buck also objected to any emancipation scheme because he believed all movements were fraught with elements of disunion. 26 The articles appeared in
23 The Examiner, April 28, May 26, 1849; Collins, History of Kentucky, I, 59; Huddleston, "James Madison Pendleton," 30.
24 The Baptist Banner, (Louisville), April 11, 1849.
25 Ibid., April 18, 1849.
26 Ibid., May 16, 1848.
pamphlet form and 5,000 copies were printed for circulation during the canvass of the convention.27
Pendleton immediately took up his pen to answer Buck. After failing to secure admission of the articles in the Banner, Pendleton had his articles printed in the Examiner.28 He denied that slavery was "a purely political" question as Buck claimed. "If any question more deeply and vitally involving morals and religion, ever came before the voters of Kentucky, I have yet to learn the fact," Pendleton insisted.29 In his second article Pendleton challenged Buck's interpretation of mosaic law on slavery, and insisted that Abraham's servants were not slaves in the American sense of the word.30 While Buck was "opposed to any interference with or alteration of the provisions" of the existing Constitution on slavery, Pendleton entertained hopes that the Constitution would be amended by a specific clause which provided that gradual emancipation be submitted to the people at an early date. Failing this, Pendleton hoped the people would indignantly reject the Constitution.31
Although the antislavery men conducted a vigorous campaign, when the election was held on August 8, the pro-slavery faction achieved a complete victory.32 Pendleton's spirit sank within him and he "saw no hope for the African race in Kentucky, or anywhere else without the interposition of some Providential judgment.1, 33 Shortly after the election was over, a correspondent to the Christian Chronicle of Philadelphia wrote that there was evidence of threats and violence which were
27 William C. Buck, The Slavery Question (Louisville: Harney and Hughes, 1849), 28, 29; Baptist Banner, July 11, 1849.
28 The Examiner, July 14, 1849.
29 J. M. Pendleton, Letters to Rev. W. C. Buck in Review of His Articles on Slavery (n. p., 1849), 1.
30 The Examiner, July 21, 1849.
31 Pendleton, Letters to Rev. W. C. Buck, 11, 12. W. C. Buck continued to maintain a cordial relation with Pendleton. In 1853, Buck preached in Pendleton's church in Bowling Green. See: Tennessee Baptist, November 12, 1853.
32 James P. Gregory, Jr., "The Question of Slavery in the Kentucky Constitutional Convention of 1849," The Filson Club History Quarterly, XXIII, No. 2 (April, 1849), 93.
33 Pendleton, Reminiscences, 94.
used against the emancipationists during the election, and that some of the best men had been driven from the state. "The Rev. J. M. Pendleton . . . surpassed in learning, piety, activity, and influence, by no Baptist minister in the State . . . has been so vilified and so alienated from his friends, on account of his open and urgent advocacy of the cause of freedom, that he can no longer be useful in Kentucky, and has resigned his church. He will remove with his family to a free state," continued the editor. Pendleton had contacted a Baptist Church in Springfield, Illinois, with the idea of settling there.34
Pendleton replied that the Chronicle correspondent was not entirely correct. He denied that he was not welcome among the members of his church in Bowling Green. "I think at least two-thirds of the members are emancipationists, and I must say that several of the pro-slavery brethren have urged me to remain," he added. Pendleton, however, had decided to settle north of the Ohio River because he did not want to rear his children in a slave state.35 He turned in his resignation after the election because his views on emancipation were not acceptable to some of the church members, but the church was unwilling to accept it and he remained there until the end of the year. In October, 1849, Pendleton attended the meeting of the General Baptist Association of Kentucky in Lexington and was treated with great kindness by the pro-slavery element of the association. He concluded that since the pro-slavery advocates had won the election by an overwhelming majority, they felt they could be courteous and magnanimous. In November he was invited to attend an ordination in Frankfort and preached the sermon. By this time he saw clearly that there was no intention to ostracise [sic] him.36
Dr. Howard Malcom, President of Georgetown College, however, did not fare as well. Since viva voce system of voting
34 Christian Chronicle, August 29, 1849; J. M. Pendleton to Messrs. Brayman, Wood, and Watson, Springfield, Illinois, November 27, 1849, The American Baptist Historical Society Archives.
35 Christian Chronicle, September 19, 1849; The Baptist Banner, October 3, 1849.
36 Pendleton, Reminiscences, 94-9
was used in Kentucky, it was known that he voted for the emancipationist candidate and the trustees of the college let it be known his resignation would be accepted.37 Pendleton defended him in newspaper articles, but Malcom resigned and accepted a church in Philadelphia.38
The only clergyman to be elected to the constitutional convention was John L. Waller, a Baptist who stood as a pro-slavery candidate. In the convention he was one of the most out-spoken advocates of slavery. He defended it on the floor of the convention as a scriptural institution and saw it as a blessing to the slaves in Kentucky. Waller declared that the colonisation scheme of the emancipationists was a hoax and was all a mere pretence. Pendleton replied to Waller in the Bowling Green Intelligencer asserting that from his acquaintance with the emancipationists he was sure that ninety-nine hundredths of them were in favor of emancipation and connected with colonisation. Out of one hundred and fifty attending the Frankfort Emancipation Convention only one was opposed to colonisation, he added. Waller did not let Pendleton's difference of opinion disturb their friendly relations. 39
In August, 1850, an editorial in the Baptist Banner condemned the emancipationists of Kentucky. Buck referred to the Emancipation Convention which met in Frankfort in April, 1849, and said "the whole movement was a cool and heartless calculation of profit and loss - A system ruinous to the negro and dangerous to the State." He charged that the emancipation movement was not contemplated to improve the condition of the Negro. In a letter to the editor, Pendleton challenged Buck's statements. "I was a member of that Convention; . . . I never had a place in a more respectable body. . . . I do respect fully, and energetically, and . . . indignantly, repudiate your interpretation of the objects of the Emancipationists of
37 The Examiner, August 18, 1849; Georgetown Herald, cited by Examiner, September 15, 22, 1849.
38 Pendleton, Reminiscences, 94.
39 The Daily Commonwealth, December 17, 1849; The Louisville Morning Courier, December 18, 1849; Pendleton, Reminiscences, 97.
Kentucky," Pendleton replied firmly. In 1851 when the Southern Baptist Convention debated the question of whether a northern Baptist who was supposed to hold antislavery views, should be invited to a seat in the Convention, Pendleton firmly stood for seating the delegate. Pendleton had always felt "a supreme contempt for the atrocious prejudice" which made "birth-place the chief element in calculating merit.40
In 1850 Pendleton accepted a call to a church in Russellville, Kentucky, where he helped found Bethel College. While he was there in 1851 Cassius M. Clay ran for governor in Kentucky on an antislavery ticket. Pendleton voted against him, but Pendleton was later informed that a Baptist colleague travelled across the state to Russellville to examine the poll-books to see if he voted the antislavery ticket. After a year in Russellville, Pendleton returned to Bowling Green where he remained until the close of 1856. During the years between 1850 and 1856, Pendleton spent much time visiting in other churches as a revivalist. In January, 1857, he left the Bowling Green Church where he had been pastor for twenty years to become pastor of the Baptist Church in Murfreesboro and Professor of Theology at Union University in the same city.41
Pendleton also became an associate editor, along with A. C. Dayton, of the Tennessee Baptist which was edited by James R. Graves. Since 1852, Pendleton had supplied two columns a week as a correspondent to the journal. Pendleton was also one of the editors of the Southern Baptist Review. Before Pendleton moved to Tennessee he had become involved in a sectional controversy as a result of an article he prepared for the Tennessee Baptist. In a July, 1856 article Pendleton praised the work of the Mary Sharp College, a Baptist academy for girls
40 Baptist Banner, August 14, 1850; J. M. Pendleton to Editor, August 19, 1850, Baptist Banner, September 25, 1850; Huddleston, "James Madison Pendleton," 56; Tennessee Baptist, March 3, 30, 1860.
41 Eaton, Reverend James Madison Pendleton, 18; Tennessee Baptist, January 7, March 4, 1854, March 24, 1860; Pendleton, Reminiscences, 108'109. Pendleton stated in his Reminiscences that he left Bowling Green on January 1, 1857. Actually the date was January 11, 1857. See: Tennessee Baptist, January 10, 1857.
operated at Winchester, Tennessee. The President of the school was a brother of J. R. Graves, editor of the Tennessee Baptist. A correspondent to the Western Recorder under the pen name of "Virginian" was critical of the Tennessee Academy because it was operated by northern-born and northern educated teachers. He urged families to send their daughters south of Tennessee where they would secure an education from native-born Southern teachers. The controversy waxed hot for six months and Pendleton condemned the sectional prejudice that prompted such criticism.42
Pendleton had hardly settled in Tennessee before he became involved in controversy. He had come to Tennessee largely due to the urging of Graves whom he had known in Kentucky from earlier days. Graves was drawn to Pendleton because of Pendleton's commitment to "Landmarkism" and his ability to set forth a strong Biblical case for the doctrine.43 Long before Pendleton arrived in Tennessee, Graves had become an object of attack by those who opposed the orthodox position. Graves was most vulnerable because of his northern birth, having been born in Vermont. He had settled in Kentucky in the 1840's before coming to Tennessee. By 1858 Graves' opponents had begun to focus on this point of attack. The editor of the South Western Baptist published a letter from John L. Waller (then deceased) of Kentucky in which Waller had stated that Graves told him he planned to leave Kentucky and the South because of slavery.44 To the charge that Graves was an abolitionist, Pendleton answered that this was impossible because Graves, now a slaveholder, could not also be an abolitionist who believed that slavery should be abolished forthwith. Graves wrote
42 Tennessee Baptist, July 26, September 20, 27, 1856, January 31, 1857; Western Recorder, September 10, December 17, 1856; Encyclopedia of Southern Baptists, (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1958), II, 827. The critic of Mary Sharpe College was the President of Central Female Institute, Clinton, Mississippi. See: Tennessee Baptist, September 27, 1856, January 31, 1857; Pendleton, Reminiscences, 112.
43 "Landmarkism" was a doctrinal opposition to infant Baptism.
44 John Waller to M. W. Philips, Louisville, July 12, 1853, South Western Baptist, cited by Tennessee Baptist, July 10, 17, 1858; Baptist Standard, May 5, 1860.
Pendleton, was opposed to the evils of slavery as were all Christians worthy of the name.45
Pendleton, however, had problems of his own due to his appointment as Professor of Theology at Union University. At least one trustee who had not been in attendance at recent board meetings was bitterly opposed to him, probably because of his Landmarkian doctrine. 46 Rumors were being spread in Murfreesboro that the University would soon be disbanded. Dr. Robert B. Howell, pastor of the First Baptist Church in Nashville, an old enemy of Graves, had been writing letters to Murfreesboro that the University would be suspended because the professor of theology was unacceptable to the denomination.47
In October, 1859, John Brown made his raid on Harper's Ferry and the Slave States "were convulsed with fear, rage, and hatred." An excitement was created throughout the South which led to a search to discover the antislavery sympathizers within the South so that they could be dispelled. John E. Dawson, editor of the South Western Baptist in Alabama, lost no time in raising the cry of "abolitionist" against Pendleton. He had no personal feelings against Pendleton but he boldly declared that any man who had such antislavery views as
45 Tennessee Baptist, August 14, 1858. Graves' chief protagonist was Robert B. Howell, pastor of the First Baptist Church in Nashville where Graves was a member. Graves was tried by the church and expelled, but the Concord Association and the Baptist Association of Middle Tennessee and Alabama would not recognize the expulsion and a second Baptist Church, the Spring Street Baptist Church, was established in Nashville. Howell's church entered the Western Tennessee Baptist Association. See: Robert Howell, "A Memorial of the First Baptist Church, Nashville, Tennessee, From 1820 to 1862," 544, 621, Manuscript Photocopy, in Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; Both Sides: A Full investigation of the Charges Presented Against Elder J. R. Graves, September 8 and October 12, 1858 (Nashville: Spring Street Baptist Church, 1859), 234-239.
46 Parlor Visitor (Murfreesboro, Tennessee), cited by Tennessee Baptist, March 7, 1857.
47 Tennessee Baptist, September 25, October 9, December 18, 1858. The University was suffering from a shortage of funds. At the end of 1858, Pendleton had received no pay since he became a member of the faculty in 1857. By January, 1860 conditions had improved so that there was a surplus of $400 after salaries were paid. See: Tennessee Baptist, December 18, 1858, January 14, I860.
Pendleton held should not be permitted to belong to the faculty of any Southern college. Dawson, as the majority of Southerners, made no distinction between antislavery men and abolitionists.48
In February, 1860, the Baptist Standard of Nashville, Tennessee, which was edited by L. B. Woolfolk, a friend of Howell, published a letter from a correspondent "Doulos" which contained excerpts from Pendleton's Letters to Rev. W. C. Buck, in Review of His Article on Slavery. "Mr. Pendleton is a professor in a Southern institution . . . built by Southern money. . . . It is nothing but right that the South should know the sentiments of so prominent a professor of Union University," the correspondent asserted. "It is my deliberate conviction that the publication of such anti-slavery sentiments as these 'letters' contain from professedly Southern men, has had a most powerful influence in shaping the present aggressive tendency of northern fanaticism on the question," he avowed.49 In February, the South Western Baptist pronounced Pendleton an unfit man for the South - especially for the position he occupied if the extracts from his emancipation pamphlet were fairly representative of his opinions. The Baptist Champion of Georgia contended that the extracts represented Pendleton's sentiments since he had never retracted them.50
The attacks on Pendleton were aimed at exciting prejudice against him with a view of securing his dismissal from the University faculty on which he was at the time serving as acting president as well as professor of theology. Pendleton reviewed his activities as an antislavery man in the Tennessee Baptist but denied that he was an abolitionist. He pointed out that the majority of the members of all the churches that he was ever associated with were slaveholders, but he had served them in harmony. He never raised the question of church fellowship in connection with slavery. The Southern Baptist,
48 Pendleton, Reminiscences, 113.
49 Baptist Standard (Nashville), February 11, 1860.
50 South Western Baptist, February 23, 1860; Baptist Champion (Georgia), March 1, 1860; The Western Watchman (St. Louis), March 1, 1860, citing Baptist Champion.
however, found nothing in Pendleton's statement to vindicate him, and the editor of The Western Watchman of St. Louis protested that Pendleton dodged the question. 51
In March, Dawson of the South Western Baptist returned to the attack. After reviewing additional extracts from Pendleton's pamphlet, Dawson again stated with emphasis that if these were Pendleton's sentiments he was not a safe man to train Southern youth. The Baptist Standard matched the attack by Dawson on Pendleton. The editor of the Standard quoted additional extracts from Pendleton's pamphlet and protested that the pamphlet was "little else than a tissue of slander upon the South." An unconditional retraction of the sentiments expressed in the pamphlet was demanded of Pendleton before he could be regarded as a safe instructor of Southern youth, or worthy to edit Southern newspapers.52
The editor of the Louisiana Baptist joined the cry for Pendleton to meet and refute the charges, or avow his true sentiments. In response to Pendleton's claim that he was not an abolitionist but rather an emancipationist, the editor of the Louisiana Baptist insisted that they were both the same. "An abolitionist is a man residing in the North who is in favor of abolishing slavery while an emancipationist is a man residing in the South who is in favor of abolishing slavery," he explained. Editor Graves of the Tennessee Baptist took up the defense of Pendleton and announced that he was as sound on the vexed question as the editor of the Louisiana Baptist or any other Christian man.53
Letters poured in from Pendleton's friends warning him that his enemies were secretly circulating false reports and plotting his ruin. He consulted with the trustees of the college and offered to resign if his views on slavery were unsatisfactory to them, or if they thought his influence was injurious to the
51 Pendleton, Reminiscences, 113; Tennessee Baptist, March 3, 1860; The Southern Baptist, (Charleston, S. C.), March 24, 1860; The Western Watchman (St. Louis), March 29, 1860.
52 South Western Baptist, March 15, 1860; Baptist Standard, March 17, 1860.
53 Louisiana Baptist, cited by Baptist Standard, March 24, 1860; Tennessee Baptist, March 17, 1860.
University. The trustees did not wish for him to offer his resignation so Pendleton stood firm. Again he firmly denied that he was an abolitionist, but refused to retract his published sentiments or to attempt to explain them away.54 Despite the aggressive attack that was being launched against him, Pendleton did not hesitate to champion the liberal cause. In March, 1860, Charles H. Spurgeon's recent book was burned in Montgomery, Alabama because he viewed John Brown as a martyr. Graves' book, The Great Iron Wheel was also consumed by the same flames. Pendleton condemned the act; "I do not fancy book burning," he wrote, "it suggests the idea that those engaged in the operation might be induced in certain circumstances to burn authors as well as books."55 When a bill was introduced in the Tennessee legislature to expel free Negroes from the state or enslave them, Pendleton had high praise for the lawmaker who took the lead in opposing the bill. The bill was blatant prejudice against the weak and defenseless, Pendleton declared, and those who supported it were politicians humoring the prejudices of the people while those who opposed it were statesmen. In May, 1861, Pendleton defended T. J. Conant's revision, The Gospel by Matthew, which retained the translation of the Greek word "doulos" to mean servant instead of slave in the New Testament. During May and June, Pendleton conducted a debate on the subject with the pro-slavery Southerners.56
Since Pendleton refused to retract the position he had taken in 1849 or to accept the classification of an abolitionist, the assault on him continued. In March, 1860, Graves labored to explain Pendleton's position, declaring that the opposition came from the enemies of Union University and the Tennessee Baptist. A correspondent to the Standard insisted that Pendleton should speak for himself; he should announce to the public
54 Tennessee Baptist, March 24, 1860; Pendleton Reminiscences, 114.
55 Columbus (Georgia) Sun, March 1, 1860; Montgomery (Alabama) Mail, April 28, 1860; Union and American (Nashville), cited by the Tennessee Baptist, March 17, 1860.
56 Tennessee Baptist, March 24, 1860, May 4, 11, 19, 25, June 22, 29, September 21, 1861; Southern Baptist Review, VIII, No. 1 (March, 1861), 60.
that the articles of 1849 represented his current position or he should publish to the world that he is a pro-slavery man. Another correspondent to the Standard labored the thesis that there was little or no difference between an emancipationist and an abolitionist. A correspondent signed "A Baptist" in the columns of the Mississippian denounced Pendleton in the most denunciatory language. Pendleton was a venomous reptile whom the South had "warmed into life - a perverter of the truth . . . unfit to expound the word of God - holding sentiments worthy of [William L.] Garrison." The Louisiana Baptist, the Baptist Messenger of Memphis, and the Baptist Champion joined the chorus with demands to know what Pendleton now believed concerning the institution of slavery.57
The aid and defense that Pendleton needed came from a surprising source. W. C. Buck, who as editor of the Baptist Banner had published the pamphlet which Pendleton had challenged in 1849 with his Examiner articles and published in pamphlet, came to Pendleton's defense. As editor of the Alabama Baptist Correspondent, Buck explained that Pendleton's assailants had taken advantage of the excitement of the Harper's Ferry raid to attempt to destroy Pendleton. Buck wrote that Pendleton was of Virginia birth and that he had known him for thirty-one years. Pendleton was as far from being an abolitionist as his accusers. He was as decidedly a Southern man as Jefferson, Madison or Clay. "The malice that would array public opinion against him at this day, for the advocacy of a system of gradual emancipation, twelve years ago, is too manifest to be hid even by the clock of religion," Buck concluded with effect. The Southern Baptist found that
57 Baptist Standard, April 7, 14, 1860; The Mississippian, April 4, 1860, cited by the Tennessee Baptist, April 21, 1860; Louisiana Baptist cited by Baptist Messenger (Memphis), April 19, 1860; Baptist Champion, April 19, 1860. The letter in the Mississippian was said to have been written by a trustee of the Baptist College in Clinton, Mississippi. See: Tennessee Baptist, April 28, 1860. When the wife of the President of Union University who published the Aurora recommended to her readers Pendleton's book of sermons, she was severely censored by the South Western Baptist. See: South Western Baptist, April 5, 1860, cited by Tennessee Baptist, May 19, 1860.
editorial had vindicated Pendleton, but the Louisiana Baptist insisted that Pendleton must speak out.58
On April 9 in a letter to Aaron Jones, Jr. one of the editors of The Mississippi Baptist, Pendleton made an effective defense against the assaults that were being made against him in the South. He called attention to Buck's editorial of March to prove that he was not an abolitionist. He bolstered this evidence by publishing copies of resolutions which were adopted by his old congregation in Bowling Green. The First Baptist Church of Bowling Green resolved that the charges against Pendleton were "utterly groundless," and without "the slightest foundation in fact." The editors of The Mississippi Baptist concluded that Pendleton had relieved himself from the charge of abolitionism which had originated in "an un-Christian, not to say malevolent spirit." The Baptist Messenger printed all the documents in defense of Pendleton's vindication and let the evidence support Pendleton's contention.59
The South Western Baptist and the Baptist Standard took issue with the Mississippi Baptist. They argued that no one had accused Pendleton of being an abolitionist. The charge, they insisted, was that Pendleton had published obnoxious anti-slavery sentiments in 1849 which if still held made him unfit to teach the Southern youth. The Standard took up the assault again by publishing Pendleton's letter to the Christian Chronicle of 1849 in which he said he was leaving the South because he did not want to live the rest of his life in a slave state. The secular press joined the attack, and the charges of April in the Mississippian were renewed in the Vicksburg Sun. The editor hoped to witness the day "when all such false teachers as Mr. Pendleton" would be driven from the seats which they filled in Southern colleges.60
In May, 1860, a former divinity student from Union
58 The Baptist Correspondent, March 7, 1860, cited by the Tennessee Baptist, April 14, 1860; Louisiana Baptist cited by The Southern Baptist, (Charleston, South Carolina), April 21, 1860.
59 Tennessee Baptist, April 21, 28, 1860; The Mississippi Baptist, April 19, 1860; Baptist Messenger, April 26, 1860.
60 South Western Baptist, May 3, 10, 31, 1860; Baptist Standard, May 12, 19, 1860.
University published a letter in the Tennessee Baptist in defense of Pendleton's position and asserted that Pendleton did not teach abolition in the University. The students in the divinity school passed resolutions to the same effect and the First Baptist Church of Murfreesboro took similar action in May. During the Commencement of 1860, four of the trustees of Union University met and formally adopted resolutions defending Pendleton against the attacks and recommended him as a safe instructor of the youth of the South. Buck's Baptist Correspondent saw these documents as satisfactory proof of the falsity of the charge since Pendleton's assailants had declared that such testimony would be satisfactory. The Louisiana Baptist, the Biblical Recorder and the Baptist Messenger printed the documents in defense of Pendleton. Pendleton's old enemies again only repeated that Pendleton and friends were repelling a charge that had never been made.61
When the Civil War broke out Pendleton took a decided stand for the Union. As early as March, 1860, he had publicly stated that disunion would not benefit any section. 62 As the Southern states began to secede Pendleton was deeply grieved that many of the religious editors were lending their support to the excitement of sectional feeling. He thought it wrong and wicked to attempt to inflame the South against the North. "I feel a supreme contempt for the atrocious prejudice which makes birth-place the chief element in calculating merit or demerit," he wrote in the Tennessee Baptist.63
As early as January, 1861, rumors of war had already affected the University. Its enrollment had dropped to one hundred. By April, 1861, the faculty of Union University decided to suspend its regular exercises until the beginning of
61 Tennessee Baptist, May 19, 1860; Louisiana Baptist, May 21, 1860; The Baptist Correspondent, May 24, 1860; Minutes of the First Baptist Church of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, May 5, 1860, p. 114 (Manuscript Record, First Baptist Church, Murfreesboro, Tennessee); Biblical Record (North Carolina), May 24, 1860; Tennessee Baptist, June 2, 1860; Baptist Messenger, May 24, 1860; Baptist Standard, May 26, June 2, 9, July 21, 1860; South Western Baptist, May 31, 1860.
62 Eaton, Reverend James Madison Pendleton, 19; Tennessee Baptist, March 3, 1860.
63 Tennessee Baptist, March 30, 1861.
the fall session. The Theology Department was not suspended. Pendleton remained at his post. In August, 1861, it was decided to postpone the opening of the University scheduled for September, but Pendleton continued to instruct divinity students on an individual basis.64
As the secession movement began to spread through the South, Pendleton found his position in the Baptist Church of Murfreesboro more difficult. A majority of the members refused to attend services as long as he was pastor. In the graduation address at the University in 1860, Pendleton had uttered patriotic sentiments. Now that feeling was agitated, it was declared that in the June address he had expressed the opinion that every secessionist ought to be hung. Pendleton denied that he "used the word Secessionist." It was said that a citizen volunteered to lead a company to hang him. Pendleton asked for a letter of dismissal from the Baptist Church of Murfreesboro, and on February 2, it was granted.65
64 Ibid., August 12, 24, September 14, 1861; Homer Pittard, Pillar and Ground: First Baptist Church, Murfreeshoro, Tennessee (Murfreesboro: Courier Printing Company, 1968), 52-53. Robert Howell, "A Memorial of the First Baptist Church, Nashville, Tennessee, From 1820 to 1862," 620-621, states that in the attempt to destroy Howell, Graves and Pendleton "sunk Union University." During the period of the Howell and Graves-Pendleton conflict the University continued to grow. It was the war which reduced the number of students so much that the University was forced to close.
65 Pendleton, Reminiscences, 122; Minutes of the First Baptist Church of Murfreesboro, February 2, 1861, p. 118. Homer Pittard writes that Pendleton's sermons were generously laced with his abolitionist beliefs. He gives this as a reason for the decline of church attendance in Pendleton's church. See; Homer Pittard, "One Hundred Twenty-Fifth Anniversary: First Baptist Church, Murfreesboro, Tennessee," Church History File No. 137, Dargan-Carver Library, Southern Baptist Convention. The evidence is overwhelming that Pendleton did not preach antislavery sermons in his churches. Pittard finds evidence of radicalism in Pendleton's church because use of the church was granted to a "non-descript group known as the 'Reformers' (probably an abolitionist body) in 1859." See Pittard, Pillar and Ground, 51. This "non-descript group" was the Campbellites or Disciples of Christ which were drawn mainly from Presbyterians and Baptists during the period. During the period they were known as Reformers. In "A Memorial of the First Baptist Church, Nashville, Tennessee . . .," Robert Howell writes, "It is sufficient to say that before the war commenced, the church was so effectually broken down that it barely maintained a precarious existence." He was speaking of the Murfreesboro Baptist Church. It was not Pendleton's emancipationist sentiments that caused Pendleton to break with his church, but his union sentiments which came in conflict with the loyalties of his congregation in 1861.
Pendleton's colleagues on the editorial staff of the Tennessee Baptist sympathised [sic] with the Confederacy. They believed the Federal government was "oppressive and tyrannical," and that the South should secede. Drayton followed the doctrine of John Calhoun and he argued the point of allegiance with Pendleton with sincere firmness. Graves visited Pendleton and spent hours trying to win him over to the Confederacy. He argued that Pendleton's influence and usefulness would be ruined if he did not follow the course of public opinion in Tennessee. The Tennessee Baptist began to show Confederate sympathies. On January 7, 1861, the paper announced that the Governor was convening a special session of the legislature to determine whether the state would remain in the Union. After Fort Sumter was fired on in April, the outcome of a referendum in Tennessee was a foregone conclusion. The election of June 8, therefore, was decidedly in favor of secession. The Tennessee Baptist reflected on this sentiment. On June 29, in an editorial it urged those who had voted against secession to patriotically submit to the majority. Since the journal was in financial difficulties and Pendleton did not agree with the editorial policy it was mutually agreed that he would withdraw from the journal.66
Murfreesboro and Rutherford County had strong sympathies for the Confederacy. By mid-summer of 1861, the Confederate flag was flying from the Rutherford County Court House. For nine months it waved there to the displeasure of Pendleton. Since it was distasteful to him, he never looked at it. Pendleton feared he might be mobbed at night. He arranged a back window and shutter so that he could make a noiseless escape into the night and his wife kept a parcel of food at hand for him to take along. Pendleton learned that his name had been given to John Hunt Morgan, but when he rode into Murfreesboro in December, 1862, Pendleton's fears were relieved as Morgan showed no interest in him. When Bedford
66 Pendleton, Reminiscences, 119-120; Tennessee Baptist, January 7, June 15, June 29, July 13, 1861.
Forrest raided Murfreesboro, Pendleton could hear noises of the battle as his farm was adjacent to the Oaklands mansion.67
Cut off from friends and relatives who were all loyal to the Confederacy, Pendleton was a forlorn figure. With no means of support he earned his living on a small farm during the week and preached to a small group that was willing to hear him. His last sermon in the Murfreesboro Church, June, 1861, was a sermon on the duties of the clergy during a war. He took the position that a preacher should only be willing to serve as a chaplain. Occasionally he preached in rural churches in adjoining counties.68
In July, 1862, the Confederates were driven out of Murfreesboro and the Union armies that moved in used his fence for firewood. With increasing hardships facing him, in November, 1862, Pendleton decided to leave the South. He settled in Hamilton, Ohio, before moving on to Upland, Pennsylvania where he served in the Baptist Church until 1883.69
Pendleton's life illustrates a fact which is too often forgotten. It is that the antebellum South was not a monolith. The opponents of slavery counted for more than their numerical totals. Men like Pendleton were a host when it came to exerting influence. Pendleton and his breed to a large extent kept the South from becoming a rigid and inflexible society.70
67 Pendleton, Reminiscences, 122-123. Pendleton's biographer, T. T. Eaton, claimed Pendleton was in no danger. See: Reverend James Madison Pendleton, 19.
68 Pendleton, Reminiscences, 122-123; Pittard, Pillar and Ground, 54. His son was killed in the service of the South.
69 Eaton, Reverend James Madison Pendleton, 19.
70 Carl N. Degler, The Other South: Southern Dissenters in the Nineteenth Century (New York: Harper and Row, 1974), 2-3.
[From The Register of the Kentucky Historical Society, July 1976, Vol. 74, No. 3, pp. 192-215; via the internet. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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