OBERLIN'S PART IN THE SLAVERY CONFLICT. WILBUR GREELEY BURROUGHS, A. M., OBERLIN, OHIO. Little did the Rev. John J. Shipherd, pastor of the Presbyterian Church at Elyria, Ohio, realize that in the founding of Oberlin he was to change the destiny of a nation. He originated the plan in 1832. In November of the same year with his associate Philo P. Stewart, formerly a missionary to the Cherokees in Mississippi and at this time living with Shipherd at Elyria, he selected the site for Oberlin. (II); (26). At this time the question of slavery was not a practical issue before the people of the North. The anti-slavery element was not incorporated into the original constitution of Oberlin. Indeed, the "Oberlin Covenant," a document expressing the design of the school and the settlement, has no allusion whatever to slavery. There was a deep seated feeling against it4a but the American Colonization Society was supposed to present the only practicable means of operating to rid the land of the evil. The early inhabitants little dreamed that the discussion of slavery would be the first topic to disturb the quiet of their wilderness. It was due in great measure to the geographical location of Oberlin that she was able to play such an important part in the events which were to follow. Ohio was an influential State in the Union. She formed the connecting link between the East and the West. On the South she bordered on Slave Territory,—the States of Kentucky and Virginia. Ohio's sympathies were largely with the South; in fact her counties bordering on the Ohio River and for fifty miles northward were principally peopled from the Slave States. The interior counties of the State were occupied mainly by a population which took slight interest in public questions. It was therefore to the Western Reserve, covering twelve counties in the northeast part of the State, that the destiny of Ohio was committed. Here the Republican party was all powerful. Of influential factors on the Reserve, "no single, definite,
INTRODUCTION How relentless is time! The events of moment in our generation are memories in the next, and forgotten in the third. We retain but a fragment of the notable achive– ments of our fathers. The workers have been so busy do– ing things that no time was left to record the things they did. Here and there, by accident more frequently than by design, signs and hints remain. These the patient student and the sympathetic friend may gather and weave into a fair– ly accurate record. This is the work of the historian. It is service of the greatest value. The Christian Church has not carefully considered the meaning of its own history. Many a deed and many a life have faded from the light of the present. This is greatly to be regreetted. We need all the teestimony of God’s grace and goodness that we can possibly gather. The faithful fol– lower of the Great Father should ever seek to know and to emulate the deeds and lives of the worthies who have gone on and whose example is rich in convincing power to those who now and hereafter follow us. The Church of the Brethren has lost much of the fine rec– ord its great leaders have set goldenly in the progress of Christian thought for two centuries. Perhaps the exodus from Europe, the change from the German to the Enlglish language, and the scattered life here in the colonies have combined to explain, in part at least, this loss. A few years ago it was impossible to ascertain the simple facts fo the origin of the church, its early struggles, its great leaders, its commanding place among the German–Americans of our colonial and early national life. This in part has been remedied. We now know somewhat in detail this splendid record of glorious service to God’s cause. We shall never know it in full. In the grave of neg–
fore going I asked him whether I should stay with him to-day, or with one of his parishioners, as I did not intend to travel to-day. He invited me to stay with him. He preached on the sufferings of Christ before the civil authorities, in just the same manner as the Hallensians. In the afternoon we had a very pleasant conversation till eleven o'clock at night. We also touched upon the Hallensians, and as he had become very cordial he confided to me his opinions about them very naively. He said: "Do you know what I think about them? I regard them as Pharisees, who impose unbearable burdens upon the people, which they are not willing to touch with a single finger." However, the honest man has adopted not only the absurd principles of the Hallensians, but he also uses their forms of speech, partly because of his acquaintance with them, but mostly because during the ten or eleven years of his ministry his own stock has been exhausted and he now uses their writings for his sermons. Thus he has unconsciously adopted the principles and language of the Hallensians. Probably he himself does not know how it happened. He studied in Helmstadt under the abbott Mosheim. He was born at Danzig. He is a sanguineo-phlegmaticus, without exceptional talents, but he is open to conviction. On April 8-March 28, I took leave of Rev. Mr. Klug. He accompanied me a whole half mile, and assured me again that my visit had been verv welcome and of special encouragement to him. He asked me to give Bro. Joseph his cordial regards, intimating that he would like to visit Bethlehem. Soon afterwards I happened to meet an awakened man, a shoemaker, a very dear man who is heartily concerned for his salvation. He soon becamie so intimate that he told me the whole story of his married life. I intimated to him that, as I some years ago in Germany. They obtained about 3,000 pounds, one-third of which was given to them for their traveling expenses and efforts. Wth the rest they built a wooden church, bought a piece of land and a number of negroes. From land and slaves the minister makes his living, so that he is not a burden to his congregation. He related that several of the Zinzendorfians had passed through hiis parish, but were unable to secure a foothold." See Hallesche Nachrichten, new edition, Vol. 1, p. 493, f.