PCA Historical Center

Archives & Manuscript Repository for the Continuing Presbyterian Church

The Gardiner Spring Resolutions

After the Adopting Act of 1729, the deliverance known as the Gardiner Spring Resolutions of 1861 is arguably one of the most significant actions ever taken in the history of the Presbyterian Church. In essence, the resolutions required pastors and members of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. to swear political allegiance to the Federal Government of the United States. By themselves the resolutions would have been controversial enough, but their proposal and enactment came just at the start of the Civil War. The effect of the resolutions was to split the Church north and south. Moreover, it cast the Northern Church in the direction of increasing political and social involvement while at the same time initiating in the Southern Church a doctrinally based aversion to social and political involvement that reigned for almost 100 years.

Gardiner Spring was born in 1785, attended Berwick Academy in Maine and later graduated from Yale University in 1805. In 1806 he married Miss Susan Barney and moved to Bermuda where he worked as a teacher while studying law. By 1808 he left that teaching position to be admitted to the bar in Connecticut, but within a short time came to explore a call to ministry, attending Andover Seminary from 1809 - 1810. His first pastoral call was to the Brick Church of New York City in 1810 and his entire ministerial career of 63 years was served at this post.


Assembly Minutes, initial Resolutions and discussion Final version of the Resolutions
Dissent of Rev. JOHN STOCKTON, and Rev. WM. P. ALRICH Dissent of Rev. JOHN P. LLOYD
Dissent of Rev. S.M. HAMILL Protest of Revs. JOHN D. WELLS, and THOS. S. CHILDS
Protest of A.G. HALL, D.D. Protest of CHARLES HODGE, D.D. for himself and others
The Reply of the Assembly's appointed Committee  

Transcript of the Minutes of the 73rd General Assembly, pertaining to the Gardiner Spring Resolution:

THE SEVENTY-THIRD GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA met, according to appointment, in the Seventh Presbyterian Church, Philadelphia, Pa., on Thursday, May 16, 1861, at 11 o'clock, A.M.
JOHN W. YEOMAN, D.D., the retiring Moderator, opened the sessions with a discourse from John xviii.36: "My kingdom is not of this world.". . .
The Assembly proceeded to the election of officers for Moderator. JOHN C. BACKUS, D.D., of the Baltimore Presbytery, receiving a majority of all the votes polled was elected. Rev. D.J. WALLER, of Northumberland Presbytery, was elected Temporary Clerk. . .
. . .

MISCELLANEOUS RESOLUTIONS, &C.
THE STATE OF THE COUNTRY

On Friday, the second day of the sessions, GARDINER SPRING, D.D., of New York Presbytery, offered a Resolution, that a Committee be appointed to inquire into the expediency of this General Assembly making some expression of their devotion to the Union of these States, and their loyalty to the Government; and if in their judgment it is expedient so to do, they report what that expression shall be.

On motion of Rev. JAS. B. HOYTE, of Nashville Presbytery, the resolution was laid on the table by a vote of 123 to 102.

Rev. HENRY M. ROBERTSON, of Winnebago Presbytery, called for the ayes and nays, but as the vote was being taken on a division of the house, the Moderator decided the call to be out of order. After the vote was announced, HOVEY K. CLARKE, Elder of Michigan Presbytery, moved to take the resolution from the table, and that on this motion the ayes and nays be recorded. Points of order were discussed, which ended in WM. F. ALLEN, Elder of Mohawk Presbytery, offering a substitute that Dr. Spring's motion be made the order of the day for the Tuesday following.

When Tuesday arrived, the different orders of the day consumed all the time, and on the next morning Dr. Spring offered the following resolutions:

"Gratefully acknowledging the distinguished bounty and care of Almighty God toward this favored land, and also recognizing our obligations to submit to every ordinance of man, for the Lord's sake, this General Assembly adopts the following resolutions:

"Resolved, That in view of the present agitated and unhappy condition of the country, the 4th of July next be hereby set apart as a day of prayer throughout our bounds; and that on this day ministers and people are called on humbly to bewail our national sins, to offer our thanks to the Father of lights for his abundant and undeserved goodness toward us as a Nation; to seek his guidance and blessing upon our rulers and their counsels, as well as the assembled Congress of the United States, and to implore him, in the name of Jesus Christ, the great High Priest of our Profession, to turn away his anger from us, and speedily restore to us the blessings of a safe and honorable peace.

"Resolved, That, in the judgment of this Assembly, it is the duty of the ministry and churches under its care to do all in their power to promote and perpetuate the integrity of these United
States, and to strengthen, uphold, and encourage the Federal Government."

On motion of CHARLES HODGE, D.D., of New Brunswick Presbytery, they were made the order of the day for the ensuing Friday morning. The order of the day being the resolution of Dr. Spring, THOMAS E. THOMAS, D.D., of Miami Presbytery, moved that they be adopted. After considerable discussion Dr. Hodge offered the following as a substitute:

The unhappy contest in which the Country is now involved has brought both the Church and the State face to face with questions of patriotism and of morals, which are without parallel in this or any other land. True to their hereditary principles, the ministers and elders present in the Assembly have met the emergency by the most decisive proof, in their respective social and civic relations, of their firm devotion to the Constitution and laws under which we live; and they are ready at all suitable times, and at whatever personal sacrifice, to testify their loyalty to that Constitution under which "this goodly vine has sent out her boughs into the sea, and her branches into the river."

For the following reasons the Assembly deem it impossible to put forth, at the present time, a more extended and emphatic deliverance upon the subject, to wit:

1. The General Assembly is neither a Northern nor a Southern body; it comprehends the entire Presbyterian Church, irrespective of geographical lines or political opinion; and had it met this year, as it does with marked uniformity one-half of the time in some Southern city, no one, he believed, would have presumed to ask of it a fuller declaration of its views upon this subject, than it has embodied in this minute.

2. Owing to providential hindrances nearly one third of our Presbyteries are not represented at our present meeting; they feel that not only Christian courtesy, but common justice requires that we should refrain, except in the presence of some stringent necessity, from adopting measures to bind the consciences of our brethren who are absent, most of them, as we believe, by no fault of their own.

3. Such has been the course of events that all the other evangelical denominations have been rent asunder. We alone retain, this day, the proportions of a national Church. We are happily united among ourselves in all questions of doctrine and discipline. The dismemberment of our Church, while fraught with disaster to all our spiritual interests, could not fail to envenom the political animosities of the country, and to augment the sorrows which already oppress us. We are not willing to sever this last bond which holds the North and the South together in the fellowship of the Gospel. Should an Allwise Providence hereafter exact this sacrifice, we shall be resigned to it. But for the present, both religion and patriotism require us to cherish a Union which, by God's blessing, may be the means of re-uniting our land.

This debate was continued during all of the morning and afternoon sessions, and renewed on Saturday Morning, when it was made the order of the day for Monday morning, at which time the subject was resumed; various substitutes were offered, and speeches made during the course of the day and evening, until about 9-1/2 o'clock, when Dr. HODGE moved to lay the whole business on the table, on which motion the ayes and nays were ordered.

The ayes are as follows: Ministers, 63; Elders, 23. Total ayes, 86.

The nays are as follows: Ministers, 85; Elders, 67. Total nays, 152.

The motion was lost. On the following morning the whole subject was referred to a special Committee, consisting of Rev. Drs. Geo. W. Musgrave, Charles Hodge, John W. Yeomans, Wm. C. Anderson, and E.C. Wines; and elders Martin Ryerson, Wm. F. Giles, J.B. White, and Hovey K. Clarke. This Committee during the afternoon made the following report.

The Committee on the state of the country, and the duty of the Church touching the present alarming crisis in our public affairs, respectfully offer the following report, which was adopted with but one dissenting vote (Rev. Dr. Anderson), and ordered to be submitted to the General Assembly.

Gratefully acknowledging the distinguished bounty and care of Almighty God towards this favored land, and also recognizing our obligations to submit to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake, this General Assembly adopts the following resolutions:

1. Resolved, That in view of the present agitated and unhappy condition of this Country, Monday, the 1st day of July next, be hereby set apart as a day of prayer throughout our bounds, and that on that day ministers and people are called on humbly to confess and bewail our national sins, to offer our thanks to the Father of lights for his abundant and undeserved goodness to us as a nation, to seek his guidance and blessing upon our rulers and their counsels, as well as upon the Congress about to assemble, and to implore Him in the name of Jesus Christ, the great High Priest of the Christian profession, to turn away his anger from us, and speedily restore to us the blessings of a safe and honorable peace.

2. Resolved, That the members of this General Assembly, in the spirit of that Christian patriotism which the Scriptures enjoin, and which has always characterized this Church, do hereby acknowledge and declare their obligation, so far as in them lies, to maintain the Constitution of these United States in the full exercise of all its legitimate powers, to preserve our beloved Union unimpaired, and to restore its inestimable blessings to every portion of the land.

3. Resolved, That in the present distracted state of the country, the Committee, representing the whole Church, feel bound to abstain from any further declaration, in which all our ministers and members, faithful to the Constitution and standards of the Church, might not be able conscientiously and safely to join, and therefore, out of regard as well as interests of our beloved country as to those of the Church, the Assembly adopts this report as its deliverance upon this subject.

Rev. Dr. Anderson offered a minority report being the Resolutions of Dr. Spring with a verbal alteration. The discussion was again opened, and lasted till the hour of adjournment. It was renewed on Wednesday and continued during the whole day, when at six o'clock in the evening, on the motion to adopt the report of the Committee, the ayes and nays were ordered.

The ayes are as follows: Ministers, 52; Elders, 30. Total ayes, 82.

The nays are as follows: Ministers, 74; Elders, 56. Total nays, 130.

Revs. J.T. Balch, T.C. Stuart, and M. Peden voted non liquet. Rev. J. W. Hoyte was excused from voting. The motion was lost.

The minority report of Dr. Anderson was then taken up; an amendment offered by Jonathan Edwards, D.D., was adopted, making the report as follows:

Gratefully acknowledging the distinguished bounty and care of Almighty God towards this favored land, and also recognizing our obligations to submit to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake, this General Assembly adopts the following resolutions:

1. Resolved, That in view of the present agitated and unhappy condition of this country, the first day of July next be hereby set apart as a day of prayer throughout our bounds; and that on that day ministers and people are called on humbly to confess and bewail our national sins; to offer our thanks to the Father of light for his abundant and undeserved goodness to us as a nation; to seek his guidance and blessing upon our rulers and their counsels, as well as on the Congress of the United States about to assemble; and to implore Him, in the name of Jesus Christ, the great High Priest of the Christian profession, to turn away his anger from us, and speedily restore to us the blessings of an honorable peace.

2. Resolved, That this General Assembly, in the spirit of that Christian patriotism which the Scriptures enjoin, and which has always characterized this Church, do hereby acknowledge and declare our obligations to promote and perpetuate, so far as in us lies, the integrity of these United States, and to strengthen, uphold, and encourage the Federal Government in the exercise of all its functions under our noble Constitution; and to this Constitution in all its provisions, requirements, and principles, we profess our unabated loyalty.

And to avoid all misconception, the Assembly declare that by the terms "Federal Government," as here used, is not meant any particular administration, or the peculiar opinions of any particular party, but that central administration, which being at any time appointed and inaugurated according to the forms prescribed in the Constitution of the United States, is the visible representative of our national existence.

On a motion to adopt this report the ayes and nays were ordered.

The ayes are as follows: Ministers, 87; Elders, 69. Total ayes, 156.

The nays are as follows: Ministers, 49; Elders, 17. Total nays, 66.

The resolutions were adopted. On the announcement of the vote, Chas. Hodge, D.D., Rev. J.P. Lloyd, A.G. Hall, D.D., Rev. Thos. S. Childs, Rev. John D. Wells, J. Stockton, D.D., and W.P. Alrich, D.D. gave notice of dissents and protests. These protests and dissents were offered, and on motion of Rev. D.J. WALLER, were admitted to record.

Dissent of Rev. JOHN STOCKTON, and Rev. WM. P. ALRICH, for the following reasons:
1. The undersigned voted to adopt the report of the majority of the Committee on the state of the country, and for the amendment offered to said report by Dr. Musgrave. This vote declared their loyalty to the Federal Government in the fullest and most unequivocal manner.
2. This report which they voted to adopt was, moreover, intended and adapted in their opinion, in the best manner then before the house, to disembarrass loyal Presbyterians in the Southern States, to preserve the integrity of the Presbyterian Church, and, as a consequence, to secure the best interests of our whole country.

Dissent of Rev. JOHN P. LLOYD:
1. Because, in his opinion, the action of the Assembly was not necessary to vindicate its own loyalty, or that of the Church it represents, Presbyterianism and patriotism in fullest devotion to the Constitution and the Union being almost synonymous terms on the page of our history.
2. Because no error in doctrine or immorality in practice on the part of any church, Presbytery, or Synod, demands such action; nor was such error or immorality presented for, or defined by, the decision of the Assembly in the action dissented from.
3. Because the action of the Assembly renders the condition of brethren and churches in the unhappily disaffected States of this Union one of painfully increased difficulty, seeming at least to make their loyalty and obedience to the Church of their choice, at least in this behest of the Assembly, utterly inconsistent with their submission to the laws of the States of which they are citizens. Their usefulness, their comfort, and their personal safety are thereby unnecessarily endangered.
4. Because for the above reasons, and others that might but need not be specified, the action of the Assembly is calculated to increase our political difficulties, add unnecessarily to the cause of Southern alienation and dissatisfaction, and thereby render more nearly hopeless the patriotic wishes and the efforts of the Administration to restore the now endangered Union in the bonds of peace.
Finally, because it renders, if not very probably, at least painfully possible, the disruption and division of the Church we love, and which we represent; an event that must affect most disastrously every interest of the kingdom of Christ in this land, and every interest of that country which we love even more than we love our lives, and making more uncertain the continuance of that Government and Union which are the hope of the world.

Dissent of Rev. S.M. HAMILL:
1. The introduction of this subject into our assembly at all, was undesirable, unnecessary, and calculated to create division.
2. The history of the Presbyterian Church bears ample testimony to her attachment to the Constitution, laws, and government of the United States, so that no new utterance on this subject was needed.
3. In his civil relations, where this subject properly belongs, he has borne full testimony to his high appreciation of the Constitution, laws, and government under which we live, and has made and continues to make daily prayer for the preservation, integrity, and perpetuity of our beloved Union.
4. The Presbyterian Church extends over the nation; and in this Assembly there are many excellent brethren, some of whom are present with us at great sacrifice and peril, whose positions at home, owing to the distracted state of the country, are greatly embarrassed by this action of the General Assembly.

Protest of Revs. JOHN D. WELLS, and THOS. S. CHILDS.
1. Because while the subject was under discussion we were led to expect, in accordance with the rules which up to that time had been tacitly recognized as governing this Assembly, and also in reply to a direct inquiry on the subject that a division of the question would be allowed.
2. We have not asked to be excused from voting: but as the vote is now recorded, our names do not appear upon the record as they should.
3. We believe it to be our duty to record our names in favour of the deliverance of the Assembly appointing a day of prayer, by the first resolution of the majority report, and also of the minority report, and against all other action on the subject.

Protest of A.G. HALL, D.D.
I would most solemnly, yet respectfully, protest against the adoption by this Assembly, of the second resolution of the minority report of the Committee on the present state of the country, not because I am opposed to the patriotic sentiments therein expressed, for I recognize it to be my duty, as a citizen of the United States, especially urgent in this time of our country's peril, to do all in my power to sustain the Government in all its constitutional efforts to suppress rebellion against all authority, and to preserve the integrity of the Union. But I hold it to be made the duty of the Assembly by the Constitution of the Church, to abstain from all political deliverances, and to confine itself exclusively to ecclesiastical action. The resolution referred to might be adopted, with a slight verbal alteration, by an assembly of patriotic citizens, or by a political convention, but it is in form unbecoming the spiritual character and functions of a court of the Lord Jesus Christ. If in the judgment of this court the present state of the country demands its action, that action should have direct reference to the church which it represents, in order to guard its members against the sin of rebellion.

The following, in my view, embodies the spirit of the resolution, against the passage of which I protest, in an ecclesiastical form, and should have been adopted by the Assembly, if in its judgment it is wise, and for the edification of the Church at this time, to give a deliverance on the subject.

Whereas, Many ministers, elders, and members of the Presbyterian Church, which this Assembly represents, are, in the providence of God, placed in circumstances of peculiar temptation, by reason of the present state of the country, to commit the sin of rebellion against the constitutional authority of the United States, therefore we affectionately and earnestly warn them to resist this temptation, and to prove themselves loyal to the Union.

And if any in our communion are in rebellion against the Government in the exercise of its legitimate constitutional functions, we remind them of the great sin of which they are guilty, and warn them of the necessity which their rebellion, if persisted in, imposes upon the judicatories of the Church, to deal with them according to the word of God, and the Constitution of the Presbyterian Church.

Protest of CHARLES HODGE, D.D. for himself and others:

We, the undersigned, respectfully protest against the action of the General Assembly, in adopting the minority report of the Committee on the state of the country.

We make this protest, not because we do not acknowledge loyalty to our country to be a moral and religious duty, according to the word of God, which requires us to be subject to the powers that be; nor because we deny the right of the Assembly to enjoin that, and all other like duties, on the ministers and churches under its care; but because we deny the right of the General Assembly to decide the political question, to what government the allegiance of Presbyterians as citizens is due, and its rights to make that decision a condition of membership in our Church.

That the paper adopted by the Assembly does decide the political question just stated, is in our judgment undeniable. It asserts not only the loyalty of this body to the Constitution and the Union, but it promises in the name of all the churches and ministers whom it represents, to do all that in them lies to "strengthen, uphold, and encourage the Federal Government." It is, however, a notorious fact, that many of our ministers and members conscientiously believe that the allegiance of the citizens of this country is primarily due to the States to which they respectively belong; and, therefore, that when any State renounces its connection with the United States, and its allegiance to the Constitution, the citizens of that State are bound by the laws of God to continue loyal to their State, and obedient to its laws. The paper adopted by the Assembly virtually declares, on the other hand, that the allegiance of the citizens is due to the United States; anything in the Constitution, or ordinances, or laws of the several States to the contrary notwithstanding.

It is not the loyalty of the members constituting this Assembly, nor of our churches and ministers in any one portion of the country that is thus asserted, but the loyalty of the whole Presbyterian Church, North and South, East and West.

Allegiance to the Federal Government is recognized or declared to be the duty of all the churches and ministers represented in this body. In adopting this paper, therefore, the Assembly does decide the great political question which agitates and divides the country. The question is, whether the allegiance of our citizens is to the State or the Union. However clear our own convictions of the correctness of this decision may be, or however deeply we may be impressed with its importance, yet it is not a question which this Assembly has a right to decide.

A man may conscientiously believe that he owes allegiance to one government or another, and yet possess all the qualifications which the word of God or the standards of the Church authorize us to demand in our members or ministers. As this General Assembly represents the whole Church, the acts and deliverances of this Assembly become the acts and deliverances of the Church. It is this consideration that gives to the action of this Assembly in this case all its importance, either in our own view or in the view of others.

It is the allegiance of the (Old-school) Presbyterian Church to the Constitution, the Union, and the Federal Government, which this paper is intended to profess and proclaim. It does, therefore, of necessity, decide the political question which agitates the country. It pronounces or assumes a particular interpretation of the Constitution. This is a matter clearly beyond the jurisdiction of the Assembly.

That the action of the Assembly in the premises does not only decide the political question referred to, but makes that decision a term of membership in our Church, is no less clear. It is not analogous to the recommendation of a religious or benevolent institution, which our members may regard or not at pleasure; but it puts into the mouths of all represented in this body, a declaration of loyalty and allegiance to the Union and to the Federal Government. But such a declaration, made by our members residing in what are called the seceding States, is treasonable. Presbyterians under the jurisdiction of those States, cannot, therefore, make that declaration. They are consequently forced to choose between allegiance to their States and allegiance to the Church.

The General Assembly in thus deciding a political question, and in making that decision practically a condition of membership to the Church, has, in our judgment, violated the Constitution of the Church, and usurped the prerogative of its Divine Master.

We protest loudly against the action of the Assembly, because it is a departure from all its previous actions.

The General Assembly has always acted on the principle that the Church has no right to make anything a condition of Christian or ministerial fellowship, which is not enjoined or required in the Scriptures and the Standards of the Church.

We have, at one time, resisted the popular demand to make total abstinence from intoxicating liquors a term of membership. At another time, the holding of slaves. In firmly resisting these unscriptural demands, we have preserved the integrity and unity of the Church, made it the great conservative body of truth, moderation, and liberty of conscience in our country. The Assembly have now descended from this high position, in making a political opinion a particular theory of the Constitution, however correct and important that theory may be, the condition of membership in our body, and thus, we fear, endangered the unity of the Church.

In the third place, we protest, because we regard the action of the Assembly as altogether unnecessary and uncalled for. It was required neither to instruct nor excite our brethren in the Northern States. It was not needed as a vindication of the loyalty of the North.

Old-school Presbyterians everywhere out of the so-called seceding States, have openly avowed and conspicuously displayed their allegiance to the Constitution and the Government, and that in many cases at great cost and peril. Nor was such action required by our duty to the country. We are fully persuaded that we best promote the interests of the country by preserving the integrity and unity of the Church.

We regard this action of the Assembly, therefore, as a great national calamity, as well as the most disastrous to the interests of our Church which has marked its history.

We protest, fourthly, because we regard the action of the Assembly as unjust and cruel in its bearing on our Southern brethren. It was, in our judgment, unfair to entertain and decide such a momentous question when the great majority of our Southern Presbyteries were, from necessity, unrepresented in this body. And it is, in our judgment a violation of the law of love to adopt an act which must expose the Southern churches that remain in connection with our Church, to suspicion, the loss of property, to personal danger, and which tends to destroy their usefulness in their appointed fields of labor.

And, finally, we protest, because we believe the act of the Assembly will not only diminish the resources of the Church, but greatly weaken its power for good, and expose it to the danger of being carried away more and more from its true principles by a worldly or fanatical spirit.

Answer: The Moderator appointed Rev. Drs. Thomas E. Thomas, Willis Lord, and Wm C. Anderson, Ministers; Jesse L. Williams and Nathaniel Ewing, elders, a Committee to answer the dissents and protests, which they did as follows:

The actions of the General Assembly, in reference to which these protests are offered, embraces two resolutions, against the former of which no objection is alleged. The whole stress of the protestation is directed upon the following sentence in the second resolution: "Resolved, That this General Assembly, in the spirit of that Christian patriotism which the Scriptures enjoin, and which has always characterized this Church, do hereby acknowledge and declare our obligations to promote and perpetuate, so far as in us lies, the integrity of these United States, and to strengthen, uphold, and encourage the Federal Government in the exercise of all its functions under our noble Constitution; and to this Constitution in all its provisions, requirements, and principles, we profess our unabated loyalty."

The first and main ground of protest against the adoption of this resolution is, that the General Assembly has no right to decide purely political questions; that the question whether the allegiance of American citizens is due primarily and eminently to the State, or to the Union, is purely political, of the gravest character, dependent upon constitutional theories and interpretations, respecting which various opinions prevail in different sections of our country; that the action of the Assembly virtually determines this vexed question, decides to what government the allegiance of Presbyterians, as citizens, is due, and makes that decision a term of communion.

That the action of the Assembly has political as well as moral bearings, is readily admitted. So had the decision of our Divine Master, when he said to the Pharisees and Herodians, "Render to Cæsar the things that are Cæsar's" Mark xii.17; a decision still binding upon all men, and underlying this very act of the Assembly. The payment of the required tax was both a moral and a political duty.

"There are occasions," says the author of an able article on "The state of the Country," in the January number of the Princeton Review, "there are occasions when political questions rise into the sphere of morals and religion; when the rule of political action is to be sought, not in consideration of State policy, but in the law of God. . . . . . When the question to be decided turns on moral principles; when reason, conscience, and the religious sentiments are to be addressed, it is the privilege and duty of all who have access in any way to the public ear, to endeavor to allay unholy feeling, and to bring truth to bear on the minds of their fellow-citizens." The General Assembly heartily approve these principles, and doubt not that if ever there was an occasion when political questions rose into the sphere of morals and religion, the present circumstances of our beloved country are of that character.

The protestants "deny the right of the general Assembly to decide to what government the allegiance of Presbyterians, as citizens, is due." Strictly speaking, the Assembly has made no such decision. They have said nothing respecting the allegiance of the subjects of any foreign power, or that of the members of our mission churches in India, China, or elsewhere, who may hold connection with our denomination. The action complained of relates solely to American Presbyterians, citizens of these United States.

Even with regard to them, the Assembly has not determined, as between conflicting governments, to which our allegiance is due. We are the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America. Such is the distinctive name, ecclesiastical and legal, under which we have chosen to be known by our sister churches and by the world. Our organization as a General Assembly was cotemporaneous with that of our Federal Government. In the seventy-four years of our existence, Presbyterians have known but one supreme government, one nationality, within our wide-spread territory. We know no other now. History tells of none. The Federal Government acknowledges none. No nation on earth recognizes the existence of two independent sovereignties within these United States. What Divine Providence may intend for us hereafter -- what curse of rival and hostile sovereignties within this broad heritage of our fathers, we presume not to determine. Do these protestants, who so anxiously avoid political entanglements, desire the General Assembly to anticipate the dread decision of impending battle, the action of our own government, the determination of foreign powers, and even the ultimate arbitration of Heaven? Would they have us recognize, as good Presbyterians, men whom our own government, with the approval of Christendom, may soon execute as traitors? May not the highest court of our Church, speaking as the interpreter of that holy law which says, "Ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience' sake," Rom. xiii.2. In the language of the learned Reviewer above cited. "Is disunion morally right? Does it not involve a breach of faith, and a violation of the oaths by which that faith was confirmed? We believe, under existing circumstances, that it does, and therefore it is as dreadful a blow to the Church as it is to the State. If a crime at all, it is one, the heinousness of which can only be imperfectly estimated."

In the judgment of this Assembly, "this saying is true;" and therefore the admission, on the part of the Assembly, that Presbyterians may take up arms against the Federal Government, or aid and comfort its enemies, and yet be guiltless, would exhibit that "practical recognition of the right of secession," which, says the Reviewer, would "destroy our national life."

But we deny that this deliverance of the Assembly establishes any new term of communion. The terms of Christian fellowship are laid down in the word of God, and are embodied in our standards. It is competent to this court to interpret and apply the doctrines of the word; to warn men against prevailing sins; and to urge the performance of neglected duties. We regard the action, against which these protest are leveled, simply as a faithful declaration, by the Assembly, of Christian duty towards those in authority over us; which adds nothing to the terms of communion already recognized. Surely the idea of the obligation of loyalty to our Federal Government is no new thing to Presbyterians.

And this is a sufficient reply, also, to the second article of this protest. Having established no new term of membership, this Assembly is not liable to the charge of having departed from the old paths.

A third ground of protest is the allegation that this action of the Assembly is uncalled for and unnecessary. Yet, on the admission of these protestants themselves, it is "a notorious fact," that many of our ministers and members believe themselves absolved from all obligations of loyalty to our National Government, -- believe, in contradiction to the Princeton Reviewer, that disunion is morally right; and some are already in arms to vindicate these opinions. What, when "a crime, the heinousness of which can only be imperfectly estimated" -- "striking as dreadful a blow at the Church as at the State," is already committed; when thousands of Presbyterians are likely to be seduced from their allegiance by the machinations of wicked men; when our national prosperity is overclouded; when every materials interest is in jeopardy, and every spiritual energy paralyzed; when armed rebellion joins issue with armed authority on battle-fields, where tens of thousands must perish; when it remains a question whether our national life survives the conflict, or whether our sun sets in anarchy and blood, -- is it uncalled for, unnecessary, for this Christian Assembly to renew, in the memories and hearts of a Christian people, respect for the majesty of law, and a sense of the obligation of loyalty? Let posterity decide between us.

That this decision of the Assembly is unjust to a portion of our Church, not now fully represented in this body, is a fourth reason of protest. We need only reply, that the roll of this Assembly shows delegates from Virginia, Kentucky, Missouri, Tennessee, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas. All might have been as easily represented. Besides, this action has no local or sectional character. The subject is of national relations, as well as of such pressing urgency, that to have waited for a full Southern representation, in a future Assembly, would have been to loose for ever the critical moment when action would be productive of good.

As to the final ground of protest, it is enough to record our simple denial of the opinions expressed. We sincerely believe that this action of the General Assembly will increase the power of the Church for good; securing, as we humbly trust it will, the favour of her exalted Head, in behalf of those who testify for a suffering truth.

[Excerpted from pages 69 - 79 of The Presbyterian Historical Almanac and Annual Remembrancer of the Church for 1862, by Joseph M. Wilson (Philadelphia: Joseph M. Wilson, 1862).