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Annual report of the Bible Society of the Confederate States of America


Annual report of the Bible Society of the Confederate States of America

Introductory Historical Sketch

The Board of Managers of the Bible Society of the Confederate States, deem it proper to prefix to the Report of the proceedings of the Convention which established said Society, a brief history of the movements that preceded its organization. 

Until a very recent date, the American Bible Society had the entire confidence of the South, and found here many of its most liberal supporters.  It was not until some time after the dissolution of the Union, that any steps were taken toward a separate organization. The Bible Society of Charleston, an Institution founded in 1810, declared in its report at the semi-centennial anniversary meeting, 21st January, 1861, its desire still to labor in concert with that Society, in the following language:

"In relation to the American Bible Society, and in renewing our arrangement 1 with it respecting the agency of the Rev. Mr. Bolles, (which has existed about eight years.) we are not unmindful of the change in the civil relations of the North and (he South, which threatens the harmony of action which ought to characterise the associations of Christian men for Christian ends. We are not unmindful of the fact that the Legislature of the State of New York have, by a nearly unanimous vote of both houses, offered the Government at Washington men and money without limitation, for the coercion ot the South, thus promoting a disposition to subordinate right to power, and reason to force; and in the face of proffered negotiations, before communities pledged both by Christian and civil obligations to regard each other's welfare, invoking war in its worst form.

"We are not unmindful that the American Bible Society, from its location in the city of New York, and its concentration of largo means, does, in fact, foster the industry and prosperity of a people whose rulers are thus inconsiderate of the just claims and the grievous wrongs of the South.

"Notwithstanding these facts, we are unwilling to break up arrangements that appeal to higher than earthly motives, and tend to promote the highest and purest earthly purposes. We remember with satisfaction that, in the progress of the slavery agitation, the American Bible Society and its Board of Managers have resisted every attempt to implicate its management iu the difficulties incident to the controversy; and we believe that our people, in assuming a position deemed necessary to our civil rights and to our social duties, would not willingly be deprived of their accustomed opportunities of bearing their part in promoting the common good of our fellow-men.

"For these reasons, the Board encourage the hope that good ends may be subserved by the renewal of our former arrangements; and that the principles that have governed, and, as we trust, will continue to govern, the American Bible Society, will have a tendency to allay and counteract the influence of those who would breathe the spirit of conflict instead of the spirit of peace."

But the hope here expressed was destroyed when the United States Government engaged in an unholy crusade against all that the Southern people hold sacred. In no long time, it was found that we were even denied the privilege of importing the word of God, bought at the Bible House. The South had no option, but to look to her own resources for the Book of Life.

At a subsequent meeting of the Board of Managers of the Charleston Bible Society, 17th June, 1861, a preamble and resolutions were adopted, from which the following passages are extracted:

"Our last annual report, made less than six months ago, in communicating to the Society the renewal for another year of the arrangements between the American Bible Society and our own, in respect to the services of Mr. Bolles, adverted to the change in the civil relations of the North and the South, then in progress, and threatening the harmony that ought to characterise the action of associations for Christian ends. We expressed ourselves as not unmindful of the manifestations of unfriendliness to the rights and feelings of the South; but unwilling to break up arrangements suggested by motives of high sanction, and designed to promote purposes universally approved. We hoped that good ends might be subserved by a continuance of our relations with the American Bible Society, especially as its management had avoided all implication with controversies respecting the institutions of the South. We do not now know of any act that would indicate a change of their policy. But events have risen above all ordinary influences. The whole aspect of things is altered. Opinions and acts, public and personal, have been assuming darker and darker shades; and now the entire North is arrayed in hostility against the Confederate States.

"This civil separation involves naturally and properly a separate and independent position in our religious and charitable establishments. In the opinion of the Committee, therefore, the relation we have held to the American Bible Society is annulled by the war; and we aro to seek by new arrangements to obtain the facilities which have heretofore been afforded through the agency of that Society.

"In the course proper to the occasion, the other Bible Societies of the State are equally concerned with us. Tliey will, probably, dissolve, or consider dissolved, their connection with the American Bible Society, as auxiliaries. The measures necessary to secure a supply of Bibles and Testaments ought to be common to us all.

"In conformity with the conclusions and purposes thus briefly set forth, the Committee respectfully rccomniond to the consideration of the Board, the following resolutions, viz:

1. "Resolved, That this Board considers all resolutions and acts, making the Bible Society of Charleston auxiliary to the American Bible Society, annulled by the change in the civil relations of the States in which the said Societies are located.

2. "Resolved, That this Board is ready to confer with other bodies in this State, and in the Confederate States, for organizing a general Southern Bible Society, in order to secure the important ends usually effected through general institutions of this class.

3. "Resolved, That the above or some other plan for united or common action, respecting an adequate and regular Bible supply, be commended to the attention of all our Societies as a proper subject for consideration by the Convention at Orangeburgh, to meet on the 24th day of September next."

A circular from N. R. Middleton, L L.D., President of the Bible Society of Charleston, setting forth the action of its Board, was sent to the other Societies of the State, and the measures it advised met with general and hearty approval.

We know of no action taken up to this time by State or auxiliary Societies already organized in any of the other States; but on the 17th of July, 1861, the Bible Society of Augusta, Ga., an organization that had long been an active and efficient auxiliary of the A. B. S., recommended a State Convention in Georgia, for the purpose of forming a State Society, to take measures for supplying the people with the Bible, and to consider the subject of the formation of a general Bible Society. This Convention was invited to meet in Macon, Ga., 22d October: and about the same time the Rowan Bible Society, N. C, made a similar call for a State Bible Convention in North Carolina, to meet in Greensborough, N. C, 23d October. And on the day above mentioned, 17th July, 1861, a meeting of the friends of the Bible was held in Nashville, Tenn., and a Bible Convention for that State called, to meet on 8th August. That Convention was held, a State Society organized, and arrangements made for issuing immediately an edition of the New Testament alone, and of the New Testament and Psalms. The work was executed—an agate 32mo.—at the Methodist Publishing House in Nashville, under the editorial supervision of Rev. Thomas O. Summers, D.D., he using as a standard the "revised brevier duodecimo, (1858,) edition of the American Bible Society."

Thus it will be seen, that by a spontaneous movement in different States, the friends of the Bible cause took action for the supply and circulation of the word of God to the people, in the firm belief that our separation from the North was final, although we were even then pressed on every side by a foe resolved upon our subjugation. 

In South Carolina, for three or four years previously, there had been an annual Convention of the Bible Societies of that State. This body met this year by previous appointment, in Orangeburg, 24th and 25th September. "We quote a portion of the preamble and resolutions adopted at this meeting, which, acting on the suggestion of the Managers of the Charleston Society, took the initiatory steps toward calling a general Bible Convention:

"There are, however, circumstances of au extraordinary nature, which have arisen since the meeting of the last Convention, deeply affecting the interests of this great cause, in common with every other interest of society, which demand the serious consideration of this Convention, that such action shall be taken as shall not only preserve this blessed work from interruption and injury, but secure advantages for its prosecution in the future with greater efficiency and success than have ever yet been attained.

"The separation of these Confederate States from the late American Union, and the establishment of a separate and independent Government of their own, together with the causes, political and social, which in their sovereign view rendered such separation essential to the preservation of their rights and liberties, would have, of itself, unquestionably involved the ultimate termination of the auxiliary relationship between the Bible Societies in these States and the American Bible Society, located in the city of New York. When, to the fact of this political separation, involving the continuance of our former relations to the American Bible Society only under circumstances of great inconvenience and detriment, is added the fact that an unjust and aggressive and most cruel war has been commenced upon us by the United States, and is persisted in without regard to our expressed desire for peace, and with the avowed purpose of subjecting us again to that Government; a war, waged with every circumstance of tlie bitterest hostility, blockading our ports, cutting off all facilities for transportation, and thus putting it out of the power of the American Bible Society, even if the disposition existed, to fill orders for Bibles and Testaments from Societies in tlie South; that which was before a question to be carefully considered previous to final action, becomes a paramount duty, an absolute and most pressing necessity; and, in the judgment of your Committee, immediate steps should be taken to secure the organization of a General Bible Society for these Confederate States, which shall become for us all that the American Bible Society was for the late American Union, au inexhaustible source of home supply and a common Agent for the prosecution of our work in foreign lands. 

The Committee submit the following resolutions:

"Resolved, That in the opinion of this Convention, the organization of a Bible Society, of the Confederate States of America, for the circulation of the Holy Scriptures, without note or comment, in our own and in foreign lands, is imperatively demanded; and should be secured at the earliest practicable moment. 

"Resolved, That with a view of securing a general expression of opinion from the Bible Societies and friends of this cause in the other States of the Confederacy, and thus, with their co-operation, securing the organization contemplated in the previous resolution. Delegates from State Conventions or Societies of other States be invited to meet Delegates to be appointed by this Convention, in a General Convention, to be held in Georgia, at Augusta, at the third Wednesday of March, 1862; to which shall be committed the duty of electing the organization of a Bible Society for these Confederate Slates, including all questions of Constitution and Policy, with the single exception embodied in the first resolution, viz., that the editions to be circulated shall bo without note or comment, and of the version in common use.

"Resolved, That three members of this Convention be appointed Delegates to the Bible Convention of the State of North Carolina, and three members, Delegates to the Bible Convention of the State of Georgia, soon to be hold in these States respectively, to represent before those bodies the action of this Convention, and to solicit their co-operation in the formation of a General Bible Society, on the basis set forth in the first and second of this series of resolution."

''Resolved, That the President of this Convention be authorised to address n letter to the Bible Societies of the States which have not called Conventions, soliciting their co-operation also with this Convention in this work, by sending Delegates to the General Convention above recommended."

The President of this Convention, Daniel Ravenel, Esq., in accordance with these resolutions, issued nearly three hundred circulars to all sections of the Confederacy, extending the call for this General Convention, and gave a wider publicity to the call by procuring its insertion in several newspapers. In North Carolina and Georgia, the State Conventions already summoned, met, and one was afterwards called in Florida, all of which concurring in the action of the South Carolina Convention, appointed Delegates to the General Convention. A committee was appointed to select Delegates representing the Tennessee Bible Society; but because of the occupation of Nashville by the Federal army before they had been named, and the dispersion of the members of the Board and Committee, the appointment was not made; though the Convention, aware of these circumstances, recognised as Delegates and received with a cordial welcome three gentlemen present from that State.

The records of the General Convention will add to this brief sketch whatever else is necessary to be known of the history of that body which inaugurated "The Bible Society of the Confederate States of America"—a Society which, we trust, is to endure for ages, and to prove a source of blessing to millions of the human race.

Endnotes

1   By this arrangement, Rev. Mr. C, Agent of the American Bible Society, served the Bible Society of Charleston, within Charleston District, three months of the year, receiving a part of his salary from the latter Society.

Proceedings of the Bible Convention of the Confederate States of America (Augusta, Ga.: March 19-20, 1862, Printed at the Office of the Constitutionalist, 1862), 3-7.

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