In 1995 I published my first book 'Chains Unbound: Slave Emancipations in Greenwich, Connecticut.' My original intention was for it to be used as an educational resource. This is an online companion site that I've created, especially for those of you utilizing online resources and smartphones. I've also included additional items and news articles not found in the 1995 edition. Jeffrey Bingham Mead, Historian and Author. October 13, 2014.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Hawaiian Missionary Letters: Rev. Chauncey Wilcox to Amos Starr Cooke and North Greenwich Abolitionism

Why was Rev. Chauncey Wilcox dismissed from the North Greenwich Church? Original manuscript letters at the Hawaiian Mission Houses Historic Site and Archives offer a clue. In letters I transcribed and posted below, Rev. Wilcox suggested persuasion and engaging the South on the subject of slavery and emancipation. Another approached was advocated by Deacon Silas Hervey Mead, a strong backer of immediate abolition -who also donated the land and provided much of the funding for the church. One would win out over the other. 
Jeffrey Bingham Mead, October 2014

Rev. Chauncey Wilcox, North Greenwich, CTto Amos Starr Cooke, Honolulu, OahuJune 15, 1841 But I wish to say things in this letter which may tend to give you some current views of things in this land. I do not believe that you understand fully the state of things here, or you would not write as you do nor (       ) as you do. I should think that you supposed that the Abolitionists, as they are called in thes made here to give this impression abroad. Our warm Abolitionists would try to make the world believe that they of all others were the only ones who loved their fellow men, that all true religion in the land was with them. Yet they denounce others who cannot go with them. If the conduct on many of the leaders in abolition is the result of Christian principles, if it is in accordance with the instruction & example of Christ & his apostles, then I must confess I am totally ignorant of what is taught by precept & example. I confess their teaching was in opposition to slavery as it exists in this country, but I believe it was no less in opposition to the conduct of many who are engaged in thf God point it out. But if he has given the Bible view of the subject of slavery then I ask what shall we say of those who act as our Abolitionists do, who excommunicate all slave holders as unworthy of standing in the church? Did Christ do this? Did Paul do this when he wrote to Timothy? Read the first part of the 6 chapt. of the (      ). The slaves who have believing masters are not to despise them because they are brethrens, but rather do them service because they are faithful & beloved partakers of the benefit.

The doctrine of our warmest advocates of slavery is that we must first get rid of slavery in this country before we should carry the gospel to the heathens abroad. They are opposed to the Board receiving anything from slave holders to send the gospel abroad. Many of the Abolitionists are acting on these principles. They give nothing or next to nothing to send the Gospel abroad. They openly avow that we must get rid of slavery in this country before we do anything for the heathens. This is one cause why the Board are no better sustained. Many who formerly contributed to them now won't give a cent. All they give if they give anything is to send agents around the northern states to denounce the South & all those ministers & churches at the north who do not all into their plans. The course which has been pursued is fraught with evil & only evil to Masters & slaves, so all our southern brethren tell us & so there is every reason to believe. It is very mush like this, brother.Suppose we in this country wished to convert the Sandwich Islands or any other heathon as to be able to go among them & preach the gospel to them? How can we ever bring the South to give up slavery unless we can go among them & talk t them on this subject? I think the exertions of our Abolitionists here at the North have hitherto been disastrous. Instead of getting rid of slavery they have put far back the day of complete emancipation. Had they conducted as they might have done I believe that some of the states before this would have emancipated their slaves. When they will do it the Lord only knows. If I wished to see slavery perpetuated in this cohat we might here call Abolitionists. They are moderate in their measures. They are not for denouncing; they think the heathens ought to be seen to as well as the slave in this country. But I fear that few of these who join the abolition ranks are of this stamp.

We are here at the north all heartily opposed to slavery & wish it were abolished! But it is with those measures taken to abolish it that the great majority of minister's & Christians are opposed. Because they are opposed to these measures, think them injurious, the Abolitionists say they are in favor of slavery.

I could tell you the course of some which I know but I do not know as it is best. I do not think it generally best for a pastor to say much against his church or individual members of it abroad. If he has anything to say he had better say it to them & there leave it. And then if I should tell you just the state of things you might write something back which would get to their ears, & this might cause offense if not to you, against those who gave you information. Thus evil rather than good result. I wish I could see you & have a few hours conversation repeating things here & among you at the Islands. I could tell you many things which I hardly dare to write.

I could tell you how much evil the letters of Mr. Green of your mission published in the Emancipator are doing. I could tell you that Mr. Bingham said that he had to come to this country to learn what was doing or said.

If I shall say to you anything respecting some members of this church I trust you will have wisdom enough to be careful to write nothing home that will injure the church or myself.

Now in regard to Dea. Harvey Mead, he appears to be a very different person from what he once was. You know he is a man of large property. It is true since you were here he has built him a large house. But his sister Sally has given him nearly if not quite enough to pay for it. What does he do for the cause of Christ? He does next to nothing. There is hardly anything given by him or any of his family. In all our contributions for the benevolent objects of the ionFor two years or more Deac. Harvey Mead's name has not been on the subscription to the Bible, the Tract or the Home Missionary Society. I can't find out as he or any of his family has given a cent to either of these objects for two years & how much I cannot say. He did give I believe last year two dollars for the Foreign Mission Society. But Sqr. Close said he had to urge him very hard to give this. It makes my heart ache to think how little he & his family do to promote the cause of Christ. Perhaps he does something for the Abolition cause, I do not know. But really, since he has become a hot-headed Abolitionist it has made him I know not what. It sometimes seems as though he did not care what become of the church. He says he has no influence. In this he speaks but too true. He has lost most of his influence, he would advocate that thing, & then he said it would surely be defeated. He then remarked that if he knew as much of mankind as he now does that house (pointing to the meeting house) would never have been built. I wanted to ask him (but fearing it would do no good but irritate, I did not) if he used his exertions in building a meeting house & in maintaining public worship for the sake of honoring himself or for the sake of honoring God & doing good to souls.

But sometimes I think that all the Deac. aims at is his own gratification, or rather his own glory. I know not his heart. I hope he is a Christian but really I hope he will not pull down what he has formerly aimed to build up. He helps support me yets of some of them will say that if I leave this place the church & Society will certainly go down. They say they will leave if I do. If I know my own heart I am ready to leave or stay as the Lord would have me. I say nothing to the people about leaving as yet & I wish nothing to be said for it will tend to divide & distract rather than to heal & unite.You inquire respecting Br. Savage, I hardly know whether I had better say anything about him as I can say nothing favorable. He did for a while distribute Tracts in Mile Square until we could persuade him to go no longer & we could get no one to distribute these. Mrs. Palmer thought they were doing no good in her districtthe school house more attend then when they moved from house to house with it. But Br. Savage attends but very few of our prayer meetings. He lives in Jehiel Mead's new house. When the prayer meeting is at Deac. O. Mead's he may be present. But seldom comes up as far as Darius Mead's to attend any meeting, even the monthly concert finds his seat most always empty. He never goes to Round Hill to a religious meeting. What he means by all this I cannot say. You see from this account that there is a great difference from what it was once. Some say he did all his works formerly to be seen by men. How this is I know not. We have had a singing school last winter. You know how forward he used to be at singing. The last winter he attended the school but a very few times. 

I have sometimes thought it well that he did not go out with you to the Islands. If his zeal is so soon quenched what would he have done? I hope he will awake out of his slumbers & do as he used to do. Then he would have influence to do good. The rest of the people in this place are much as they used to be except there is at present among all a great coldness on the subject of religion. I have written freely in this letter knowing that I am writing to friend, a brother who will be careful what he says. Perhaps by the time this reaches you things will be changed. You want to be on the ground to know all.

The same may be said in regard to some of your feelings towards the Board. You cannot judge of the propriety of their doings as you could if you were here & know all as they come before the Board. From what I saw of Mr. Bingham in New Yoron-land! Tell me if he feels as you did towards the Board when you said if you had known as much as you now do you should not have gone to the heathen. Perhaps this was a right feeling. But I cannot see it so & I doubt whether you will feel so on a dying bed. Are not the Board on the whole kind? If not, tell wherein they are unkind? I do not pretend that they cannot err. They have erred. But I believe they aim to take a fatherly care of their missionaries & I believe the complaints against them are usually unjust.

I have filled my sheets & I must stop. If Sarah were here she would send her best love to you & Juliette. 

With my best wishes for your happiness & prosperity, 
Chauncey Wilcox 

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Rev. Chauncey Wilcox, North Greenwich,  
to Amos Starr Cooke & Juliette M. Cooke, Honolulu, OahuApril 13, 1842

There is one subject on which I think you & your associates, or some of them, err. And were you in this country now I think your views might be greatly modified. I refer to what you have done on the subject of slavery. I have just seen in the Emancipator that you have formed an Anti-Slavery Society. Among the number who have joined this Society I see your name & Horton's. And I confess that when I saw this & Mr. Castle's letter giving the reasons for what you had done in forming this Society I felt sorry. You have grieved the hearts of some of your friends, not to say many by turning aside from your appropriate work of teaching the ignorant & benighted around you to engage in forming an Anti-Slavery Society. I will just here state that Squire Close & his wife are both very much grieved to hear that such a Society was formed at the dwelling of his son-in-law. They can hardly speak of it without tears. 

Mr. Castle in his letter says that all did not join with them, not that they do not believe Slavery an evil, but they differed in their views of the means to get rid of this evil. Now I think they judged right, or at least judged that to form a Society in the Sandwich Islands is not the way to free the poor slaves in this country. This sentiment is gaining ground in this country,ery. That slavery is a sin & that the South can & ought to rid themselves of this evil I believe & so does all that I hear say anything on the subject here in the north. The only question that divides us from those who are technically called Abolitionists is in the means to get rid of slavery.

The Abolitionists say form societies here at the north & all over the world, excommunicate the slave holder from the church, call him by all the hard names you can invent. This has been & still is done in their publications. Agitate, agitate, no matter what the effect on the South may be. The longer I live I am more and more convinced that the course the Abolitionists pursue is the worst course they would take to gain their professed object. These organized associations & all that is done on the subject I am fully convinced have already put back the day of redemption to the poor slave.

What makes me think so, I will tell you. Though I cannot in this one letter tell you all so, not half or a hundredth part. The Abolitionists have made a great political hobby of their sentiments. They have come out & organized a separate party & are sending about men to lecture on political Abolitionism. In this view of the subject I am heartily sorry & see you missionaries from a society, I have your names blazoned abroad from one and of this land & the other, as those who go with the violent hot-headed Abolitionists in this country. You are (clapsed) with them. You are regarded as approving of "their measures", & in this end you know not how much evil you may do to the cause of missions. What good can you possibly do by forming a Society? What good is done by forming them here at the North? They exasperate the South. They make the South feel that we are more in this way of interfering with their doesire to get rid of this evil.

You at the Sandwich Islands & we at the North have no power to compel the South to free their slaves. All the power we have is that of moral mission. We must persuade them; we cannot drive them. In order to persuade them, we must so conduct as to have access to them. We must gain a hearing. What has hither been done has been to prevent a hearing, not gain one.

No Abolitionist can go to the South & talk to them. But if they had conducted as they ought, they might have gone there & tried to persuade them to relinquish their hold on the slave.

It is strange to me that men do not understand human nature better. Just look at this in another point of light. Suppose you wanted to make the Chinese, or any other heathen nation, give up their idolatry & embrace the Christian religion. How would you do it? Would you, at the Sandwich Islands, come here in this country, get together & form antıi-Idolatrous Societies and denounce the Chinese with all the harsh language we could invent? Now, suppose they knew what we were doing, know that we meant to destroy their idols & in consequence such prejudice was raised against us, that we could not go to them, could not send one missionary to preach to them the gospel. They believed they were right & we a lot of fanatics, & our forming societies & all else we did was doing nothing but preventing all access to them. 

When should we in this way convert them to the Christian religion? Never. We must so conduct as to have some access to them, or we can never persuade them. When we have the physical power in our hands we may make men submit, but when we can use no other but moral suasion, we must first gain a hearing. We must endeavor to make those whom we wish to convince feel that we are aiming to do good. Now all the movements of the Abolitionists, whether justly or unjustly, do make the South feel that they are aiming not to do them good but injury.

Take another view of the subject. Suppose the missionaries had by their efforts been able to overthrow idolatry & by the blessing of God convert to Christianity all at the Sandwich Islands except those living on one of them, say, Hawaii. On this they were strongly wedded to their former idolatrous customs. How would you conduct so as to bring them to embrace the Christian religion? Would you on this other island get up organized associations, send around your lecturers, publish flaming pamphlets & denounce them as the worst of men when you knew that all you did was carried to their ears & made them believe that you were trying to do them hurt instead of good & so prejudiced them against you & your cause that they would not allow one of your missionaries to come & stay on their Island? Would this be the way to convert them? Would you ever bring them to give up idolatry so long as what you were doing o˘nly created a greater prejudice against you? Can you see that if you wished to do them good you must get access to them? You must be able to go among them & preach the gospel to them. 

Now I ask, is it not so in regard to the subject of slavery? It appears to me to be one of the plainest principles that if we wish to do the South good we must be able to go among them & address them personally. Any mode of procedure which would (drive or deny) all access to them would be wrong unless we have as thus saith the Lord to proceed in this way. But have we any command of the Lord telling us, we must form Societies here at the North to remove Slavery at the South? Is there any command telling you at the Sandwich Islands that you must form a Society to banish Slavery in this land? If you have not you are not under obligation to do it unless you have evidence that this is the way to do good. You ought not to do it if you have evidence this is the way to do evil rather than good.  

The truth is you & I & all are bound to do all the good we can. But when we pursue a certain course & we see evil & only evil to result we certainly ought to stop & ask whether we are doing right! Our object may be good, our motives good but the means used may not be best, yea, they may be bad. It is as dear to my mind & I will say to two-thirds, if not nineteenth of the Christians in this country, that the means which the Abolitionists use to get rid of slavery are positively injurious. 

You may ask, what shall be done? Shall we do nothing? Yes, I say, better do nothing than to do hurt. We must so manage that we can go to the South & try to convince them of the evil of Slavery. Until this can be done I do not see possibly how we can ever benefit & the South. If we can form associations against slavery in the slave-holding states it might possibly do good, but until this can be done all such associations out of these states are to my mind positively injurious. All the Christians who live at the South use but one language on this subject. They tell us that abolition movements at the North are fraught with evil to the master & the slave. All Christians who go to the South tell us the same thing. Mr. Maynard, formerly settled in Darien, you well know him, when he was among us he was one of the "warm" Abolitionists. He has been out of health, unable to preach. A year ago the past winter, he spent at the South for his health. On his return in the spring, he was asked what he thought of the doings of the Abolitionists at the North. They are the worst things they can do, said he. So I believe from all the information I can gain on this subject. 

I certainly know that the spirit & doings of the Abolitionists are doing no good at the North. They divide churches, alienate the affections of brethren. Why is this done? Because they denounce all as the pro-slavery man who will not go with them. We tell them we are as much opposed to Slavery as they & should rejoice as heartily in the liberation of the slave. But because we will not go with themnot go with them are unworthy to preach the gospel. I do not believe you at the Islands have as yet this spirit, but how long it will be before some of you will get it I do cannot tell. I have seen in an Anti-Slavery meeting resolution taken denouncing as unworthy the name of a Christian's church all the churches which will not come out openly & take sides with the Abolitionists. 

Now, I say, the spirit this manifested is any other spirit rather than the spirit of Christ. Did Christ & his apostles do this? Did they talk & act as the Abolitionists do? Slavery existed in their day to as great extent as it does now. You know well how they treated the subject. Shall Christians at the present day be worse than they? Do they know better how to free the world from evil? I wish you would read Dr. Spring's lecture on this subject. You will find it in a volume of lectures to young people which Squire Close has sent to Charlotte.

There is another thing which the Abolitionists are doing & which I think is wicked & is calculated to do an immense hurt to the cause of Missions. In many of their leading papers they are trying to persuade the community that the Boston Board ought not to be patronized, because they will not as a Board come out & denounce Slavery. Many have withdrawn all their contributions from them. They won't do anything for the heathen unless Slavery is done away with in this land.

Is this right? Is it right to say that because we cannot convert the Chinese to the Christian's religion we will not do anything for the other parts of the heathen's world? Suppose the Chinese will not let a missionary go there, but still we will labor here at home for them by forming societies, publishing pamphlets & sending out lecturers & waking up the Christian community to labor for China & do nothing for any other country until they are converted. Would this be right? Had we not better follow the leadings ofhad better stay at home & not go to the heathens until this country is freed from Slavery. This has been recently said in the Emancipator of at least one of our missionaries now in Africa. My feeling on this subject are not peculiar. They are the feelings of a large majority of Christians in this land.

Now I do not believe that you feel as most of the Abolitionists do in this land. I do not believe you are prepared to go with them in all their measures. And I fully believe if you were now here you would be no more with them than I am unless you had already committed yourself. When men commit themselves they are very apt to look only at one side. Now I know that your name being published as a member of an Anti-Slavery Society, formed in the Sandwich Islands, expressly to remove of help remove Slavery from our country, you will be classed with them & regarded as approving of all their measures. I am therefore sorry to see what you have done unless you do approve, & if you do, I am still the more sorry. I pity your delusion. Some of those who were leaders in the Abolition ranks when you left this country have withdrawn from them. They have publicly ordered their names to be taken from the Society. Judge Jay I can mention as one, not that he loves Slavery any better than before, not that he thinks the South are doing right, but he sees that organized Societies at the North are not the best way to do good to the South. From what I have written do not slavery in this land. Far from it. I believe it is fraught with much evil. But I do disapprove of the means which have been & still are used to get rid of this evil because I believe they tend to increase rather than cure the evil. Some things I am confident which are done, are in themselves wicked. How is it that professed Christians can do them I do not know. Not long since an Abolition convention published an address to the slave in which they advised him when fleeing to take all along his course in the not-slave holding states the boat or horse or anything that is necessary for him to make his escape. They advise him to steal- to take which if they are caught will put them in State's prison. Is this right? Is this giving gospel advice? Is not the law that punishes the horse-stealer good? Shall we then in open violation of good & wholesome laws, & of the Gospel, too. 

But I must leave this subject, though I could say much more. I must leave it for your own reflections. You & I must answer to our God for what we do on this subject.

I notice you number your letters. I think it a good plan, then we shall know whether any are lost. I do not know how many I have written & you, but I will now begin to number mine. This I shall number 2. Love to Juliette & all our friends.I remain your ever affectionate Brother,C. Wilcox

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Dear Brother:

I have written two letters to you of late, but I think it will not be amiss to write at least another. The letters I have written are primarily taken up with describing father's situation. I shall say but little of him in this as you will probably receive all three letters at one time. I will just say that I returned from Danbury last Friday; I left Sarah & our two oldest children there. They will probably stay until next week unless there is some sudden change in father. Father is very low, will not to human view live long. He has in a great measure lost his mind.  will soon unite in the anthems of the blessed.

I remain your br.,

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Rev. Chauncey Wilcox, North Greenwich, CT

Dear Brother,

I have just written you one letter but as that does not contain all I wish to say I have thought I would write another. Indeed, many letters would not contain all I should like to say to you. I wish it were so that we could meet once more & spend a little time together in friendly conversation. Then we might obtain each others views & feelings much better than by writing. In conversation we might much better convince each other of his errors, than we can expect to do by writing. But at present we must be content to express our views on paper.

Monday, 18th This letter I have just read to Sarah Close, who is now at my house. She says she wishes I would request you to show it to Horton & Charlotte as containing an expression of her own views. Mr. Bingham preached here half a day yesterday & left this morning. We wished he could stay longer. We have only just seen this as he came yesterday noon. He is an excellent man.

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