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Small Collection 103 [February 26, 1996]
Birney, James Gillespie; 1792-1857
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Scope and Content
Autograph letter signed from abolitionist leader Birney to S. Silsbee [?] in which Birney gives his opinion on the question, "Whether a missionary would be countenancing or conniving at slavery, by accepting a commission from a Foreign Missionary Board, whilst that board solicited and received aid from slaveholders?" A full transcript of the letter follows.
Addressed to: Mr. S. Silsbee [?]
Madison [?] Co.
New_York, Mar. 18_'39
Absence from the office has been the reason that your letter of the 9. inst. has not been answered till now.
You ask my opinion on this point - "Whether a missionary would be countenancing or conniving at slavery, by accepting a commission from a Foreign Missionary Board, whilst that board solicited and received aid from slaveholders?"
I think he would not, provided he made it a condition of his engaging, that he was to be unrestrained, wherever he might be, in condemning the system, and speaking of those who uphold it as they deserve. The Sandwich Island Missionaries, if I mistake not, are all Abolitionists. I do not suppose, with their zeal against the Abomination, that they can be said to be countenancing or conniving at slavery, because the Society under which they act, receives donations from the South, or even if they themselves, were to receive part of the means by which they are supported from. slaveholders. This, as it occurs to me, is the point; - To keep yourself perfectly free to act against slavery - and to let it be understood, at the time you engage, that you intend doing so, whenever you may judge it proper.
That you, my dear sir, may be guided aright in this matter, and be made eminently useful to your fellowmen is the earnest which of
James G. Birney
Mr. S. Silsbee
Materials for this collection were received by the Center in January 1986 from Charles Apelbaum,