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These acts of expulsion were made to depend upon a false principle, and a “ false fact,”—a false principle—the unconscitutionality and absolute nullity of the plan of union, and the “ false fact,”-the formation of those synods, and their attachment to the General Assembly, by virtue of that plan. This, although asserted and acted on, as a fact, was, in every sense, destitute of truth. The plan did not make any provision, as to synods; and all those synods had been actually formed, by the General Assembly itself, in the constitutional manner, without any reference to the plan of union. They were not attached to the Presbyterian church, by the General Assembly, but were formed, as all the other synods have been, by the mere subdivision of synods as old as the constitution, and they bad been several times, every year, acknowledged, and published to the world, by the General Assembly, as courts of the church. In that character alone, (as synods,) had the Assembly any right to meddle with them. They accordingly acted upon the synods, and not the presbyteries, or individuals, that they might seem to have the shelter of the constitutional grant of jurisdiction. It has never been pretended that the Assembly can act originally upon individuals. If, however, individuals were not cut off, then they remained in the church and were pastors, and church-members, and presbyteries still, and, of course, entitled to be represented in the General Assembly. But thus interpreted, no power would be gained by the exscinding acts, for it is the presbyteries, and not the synods, that send representatives to the Assembly. It was therefore determined to give to the resolutions an individual application, as well as an application to synods, presbyteries, sessions and churches, although only synods were named. It was, in effect, declared that all in those regions,-men, women and children, clergy and laity,—were excluded from the church. As a first act, on this construction, they excluded from the Assembly the sitting representatives from the presbyteries in the same regions, and put the clerks of the Assembly under a pledge, not to receive or enroll the commissions of delegates from the presbyteries, in any future General Assemblies. If these proceedings had been legal, or had been submitted to, the end was answered. The majority had perpetuated their power. But such proceedings, under the circumstances, could have no validity. They violated the plainest general principles of Presbyterian government, and the express provisions of the constitution, by disposSECOND SERIES, VOL. I. NO. II.
ing of individual rights, without the intervention of the primary courts, and, at the same time, destroying the right of appeal. The grand view of the proceedings, however, was the violation of one of those eternal principles of natural justice, which are superior to all positive enactments. That no one should be deprived of his right, or be punished, without an opportunity of being beard in his own desence, is a principle stamped by the hand of God upon the common understanding of mankind. It has been incorporated in all the codes of all nations, and, in the constitution of the Presbyterian church, it regulates all judicial proceedings. This principle was trodden under foot at every step of these proceedings. There was no pretence of a hearing, or even of notice. The synods and their whole constituency, ministers and church-members, were swept away by the same unforeseen decree, confounding the innocent with the guilty, and condemning all unheard. Wonderful proceedings, indeed! for they were the work of a chosen deliberative Assembly!—for they were the work of a religious Assembly, an ecclesiastical court -for they were the work of ordained bishops and elders of a christian church !—for the sufferers were their brethren! and the cause of Christ, dearer than all !
The attempt to justify the proceeding, from its form of expression, was too lame and puerile to succeed with the weakest. “ It charges no offence, it proposes no trial, it threatens no sen
It purports merely to declare a fact, and assigns a reason for the declaration." " We simply declare that they are not constitutionally a part of our church.” But if the proceeding did not affect the individuals, then it was useless and nugatory. If it did affect them, they clearly were entitled to be heard. Again, “ The attempt to excite prejudice against the measure, as a high-banded and oppressive act of power, is
, uncandid and unfair. Is it an act of oppression for a court to declare that an Englishman is not an American, or that an alien is not a citizen ?" Surely it is as much an act of oppression to decide a question of citizenship as it is any other question, against
а a man, without giving him an opportunity to be heard in bis defence. It is certainly a new idea, that a party is not entitled to a hearing, provided the matter in question be simply whether he have any rights at all! The Assembly, after thus cutting away the minority, created a Foreign Mission Board, and after denouncing the American Home Missionary Society, and the American Education Society and their branches, closed its event
ful existence. The question now presented itself to those who had been the friends of union, what was to be done? No one doubted that these great measures had been taken, as means to an end, as only " beating up and levelling down the way” to personal and individual oppressions, from which no prominent man of the minority, now reduced to a powerless handful, would be safe. It was plain too that, unless something was done, the constitution of the Presbyterian church would be a dead letter, and that form of church government be made a hissing and a by-word, among the churches of a free people. Firmly attached to the constitution, they determined to make an effort to vindicate it, and to restore its healthy action, and its original beauty and purity. It was plain to them, that such proceedings, in violation of all the rights of Presbyterians, could have no force or effect to exclude from the church, or to dissolve or extinguish its constitutional judicatories. They did not, however, trust solely to their own, perhaps biassed, opinion, but took the counsel of some of the ablest men and soundest jurists in the country, whose feelings had in no manner been enlisted in the matter. Their clear opinion was, that the proceedings of the Assembly were utterly null, and as though they had not been, and that the constituency of the General Assembly was undiminished. The obvious course, then, was for all the presbyteries to send up their representatives to the next General Assembly, to take their seats, as though nothing had happened, if permitted to do so; if not, then to take such steps as should secure their rights, and enable them to have the measures tested by the tribunals of the country. They determined firmly and moderately to ask for their rights, and, if denied them, then “ to appeal unto Caesar.”
It is of the most obvious truth, that, if all the presbyteries were entitled to be represented, and they were so, if they were not cut off by those acts of the Assembly,) the representatives must meet on terms of entire equality. No one could have the right to say, "my commission is better than yours, and I shut you out.” The commissioners from Philadelphia could as well exclude those from Baltimore, as those from Rochester. Any attempt thus to shut out, in the first instance, a large number of representatives from the organization of the Assembly would vitiate the entire action of those who might remain, and make them a mere convention of certain delegates, destitute of all authority. It was however well understood that the course indicated by the previous Assembly was to be persisted in, and its organs, the clerks, were to make up a partial list, omitting the excluded delegates, which list was to be the sole guide in culling and organizing the Assembly, and was to be defended to the last. In these circumstances, revolutionary measures would have been justified, as a redress of grievances, and an intelligent community, would not have failed to see the necessity and the righteousness of any proceedings suited to meet the emergency. The course, however, was a plain one, without resort to revolution. The commonest principles of the organization of representative bodies gave them a constitutional remedy.
Accordingly, at the appointed time for the meeting of the Assembly, the representatives of all the presbyteries gave their attendance. Those from the exscinded bodies and the whole body of the friends of union announced to the world, as the constitutional principle, by which they intended to be governed, that no General Assembly could be regularly organized, which should exclude any part of the delegates from their equal rights. They offered their commissions, in the usual form, to the clerks, to be entered on the roll of the members. They were rejected on the authority of the previous Assembly. They all, however, resorted to the place of meeting of the Assembly, and took their seats as members; and at the first opportunity, as soon as the preliminary exercises of the Assembly were over, on the ground of the refusal of the clerks to enroll all the members, a motion was made to the moderator, that the clerk be instructed to make up the roll according to immemorial usage, and established practice. The moderator declared the motion to be out of order, because the completing of the roll—ihe very matter to which the motion applied—was the business in order! An appeal was, of course, taken from such a decision. Every body knows that an appeal from a decision of a question of order is always in order when the decision is made; but the moderator declared the appeal to be out of order, and refused to put it to the house ; and the mover sat down. The clerk read his report upon the roll, and the moderator announced, tbat if any names were to be added, that was the time to move for their addition. Immediately another motion was made, that the names of the gentlemen, whose commissions had been rejected by the clerk, be added. The moderator, instead of putting the motion to the house, decided it, on his own responsibility, and declared that they could not be added. The motion was repeated, and he decided it to be out of order. An appeal was taken, and he resused to put that
also, declaring it to be out of order. A motion was then made by another commissioner, to have his name added, which the moderator disposed of in the same summary manner, showing clearly, that he was willing to pervert what he supposed to be the power of his office to the purposes of a mere party. By the constitution, he was moderator only “till another be chosen, and was, of course, removable at pleasure. A motion was accordingly put to the Assembly, by one of the members, that another person be appointed moderator, which was carried. The pariy of the moderator, with few exceptions, not voting. In the same manner the pledged clerks were removed, and others appointed in their place, who made out the roll, according to established usage, inserting the names of all the commissioners who had been excluded by the previous clerks, and the Assembly immediately adjourned to another place. The old moderator and clerks, however, declined to consider themselves removed, and, with their party, remained behind, after the Assembly had adjourned, claimed to be the only true General Assembly, and went on and performed the usual functions of that body, as did also the General Assembly. The great difference in the principles of their organization was that the General Assembly embraced, and enrolled, and regularly called, all the members from all the presbyteries, while the party that remained behind, and went on with the old moderator and clerks, excluded, to the end, those who had been excluded by the clerks, in obedience to the command of the previous Assembly. The result was that two bodies were in session, claiming to be the General Assembly of the Presbyterian church.
Among other duties to be performed by the General Assembly, is that of appointing “ trustees of the General Assembly," the corporation having charge of the property of the Assembly, Appointments were made by both bodies, and two sets of trustees claim their seats at that board. It is to settle that question that the suit now pending, in the courts of Pennsylvania, is brought, and it depends upon the question, which body was the true General Assembly? This depends upon the validity of the exscinding resolutions. The result of a trial upon the merits must show whether, as the friends of union contend, the church is still one and undivided, or whether the General Assembly of 1837 have really riven it in twain.
Much effort has been made to excite prejudices against the friends of union, because of their having resorted to the courts