Rev. Samuel Jackson Letter, Andover 1840

The Reverend Samuel Jackson was the minister of West Parish in Andover. In the 1830s and ‘40s, as the abolitionist movement gained steam, Andover’s churches were affected by the growing divisions in the town. Abolitionist parishioners wanted their ministers to refuses pews to any pro-slavery church members. Eventually abolitionist parishioners from Andover’s 3 main churches began their own church, the Free Christian Church. In this letter, Rev. Jackson is telling his parents about his problems with abolitionist and pro-slavery parishioners.

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Andover April 3rd, 1840.

My dear Parents,

I owe each of you a letter, & I must answer you both, by this, without distinction. More days have passed without my writing, than I expected would, when Mr. Prescott left. Trouble, trouble yet with abolitionists. There seemed to be a calm for a time after our annual meeting. After a while Mr. John Smith came & talked with me about the vote of the church, & we had a calm and friendly talk. He was grieved that there should be a vote on our church records – “a gag law” – prohibiting the discussion of slavery. I assured him that the record would be removed or obliterated & nothing appear on the subject, if he & his brethren would agree not to bring the matter into the church, until they had good reason to believe they were the majority. He gave no assent or refusal to this proposition, and so we parted. Soon after he bore a prominent part in a disgr[a]ceful scene which occurred in town, when he & others, undertook, by clamor and tumult, to prevent the formation of a new abolition society, in opposition to [the] one of which he was Prest. & he and his party actually succeeded in driving their brother abolitionists out of [the] house by the uproar which was occasioned. I was present as a spectator only, but he was probably mortified that I was a witness of the scene, as he was no doubt ashamed of his conduct afterwards. The next I heard of him, he declined acting as Treasurer of the Parish any longer: soon after he “signed off,” as it is called here, refusing to be taxed here. I understand he intends to worship with us for the present. He gave me no intimation of any such design, as leaving us. The whole reason is that his abolition measures are not favoured by [the] church & minister. No others have gone as yet. If they can’t be peaceable, we choose to have them go. We have shown every indulgence consistent with our consciences. What [the] end is to be, we don’t yet know. Mr. Smith & his wife are exceedingly unhappy. I pity them. There is no other church where they can go & be any better off, than in mine. He has laid himself open to discipline, by a violation of pledges – refusing to pay subscriptions on abolition grounds solely; and is now in a fair way to violate his covenant. I am soon to have a full and christian talk with him; & I intend to lay the whole matter before our association for advice, & obtain it from those professors.

Yesterday was our Fast Day & I had made special preparation for it. I had special reference to [the] sad state of things produced by anti-slaveryism. I took the bull by the horns. My general subject was slavery. My object was to vindicate myself; to vindicate ministers generally, & all good men, who are now so shockingly slandered by abolitionists. In the morning I showed that I, all ministers, & abolitionists generally held the same great & fundamental principles on this subject – showed what we all believe, & that I had preached in accordance; & at [the] close of my sermon I called on [the] assembly to show by rising whether they assented to these principles. They all rose, except two abolitionists! I had now gained a great point – viz, that we were all essentially agreed. In the afternoon I came out with my practical conclusions, & inferences, & they set snug. There was no mincing matters. Things had got into such a state that I felt bound to tell the whole story. My sermons occupied three hours, & [the] people seemed in no hurry to get home. I have had no report from it as yet. But I must stop this or I shall have no room to say a word of Henrietta. I saw Mr. Holt and conversed with him about her situation &c. He said very little but what has been written in her letters. She is pleasantly situated as to house, servants of which she has three two; has vast deal of company; was expecting to be confined every day when he left & was so anxious about herself. Her physicians thought she did not take exercise enough. She speaks very highly of Dr. Lowell, Unitarian minister of Boston, & refers me to him for information about them. I expect to see him in the course of the month. If I learn anything of interest I will inform you. As soon as I can, I will comply with your request to pay $10 to the Board. Thank you for your letters; am worn down by my labours this week & don’t feel able to write any more. All well.


Rev. William Jackson D.D.

April 4. Deac. Smith has been to see me about my fast-sermon & we have talked the whole forenoon. He thinks I preached good abolitionism in the morning, & in the afternoon up-set it all. I think, however, he feels much better after a talk, & will not leave. I shall probably not be at home before Aug. or July – have declined my appointment at [?]
If Susan will come down with Mr. Beach, I will carry her home.
I choose to leave when I can best get my pulpit supplied, which is when the students begin to preach. Yours as ever. S.C.J.


Samuel C. Jackson, Samuel C. Jackson to Rev. William and Mrs. Jackson (April 3, 1840). Letter. Andover Center for History and Culture, Andover, MA.