The Reforming Assembly of 1837
The convention called by the Committee of Correspondence, met at 10 o’clock, on the 11th of May, 1837. The Rev. Dr. James Blythe was appointed temporary chairman, and the Rev. Thomas D. Baird, temporary secretary. The entire day was consecrated to humiliation and prayer. On the next day, the Convention, was organized by forming the roll, and appointing as permanent officers, the Rev. Dr. G. A. Baxter, President; the Rev. Dr. C. C. Cuyler, Vice President; the Rev. Thomas D. Baird, Recording Clerk; and the Rev. H. S. Pratt, Reading Clerk.
There were in attendance, one hundred and twenty members, representing fifty-two Presbyteries, and thirteen minorities. The course pursued by the previous Assembly, with respect to the foreign missionary question, the facts in connection with the case of Mr. Barnes, and the other causes mentioned in the last chapter, had operated powerfully, to arouse the attention of the Southern churches, and to convince them of the true character of the controversy, and the vital nature of the interests at stake. They were, therefore, largely represented in the convention, and the developments there made brought them generally to decisive co-operation with the Old School, in the measures of reform adopted by the Assembly.
The sessions of the Convention were occupied, mainly, with inquiry as to the nature and extent, of the heresies and disorders which were prevalent. The roll was called, and each member, in turn, invited to state the facts of his knowledge. The developments thus received were of such a character as to banish doubt from the minds of the most skeptical, and confirm the entire body in the conviction of the necessity of some immediate and adequate remedy. Particularly emphatic and precise was the testimony respecting Western New York, the Western Reserve, and Illinois, where contempt and hostility to the doctrines of the Confession were freely avowed, and the heresies of Taylor and policy of Finney were openly cherished.
The results of the discussions and deliberations were embodied in a Testimony and Memorial to the Assembly. This most able and impressive paper was prepared by a committee, consisting of the Rev. Messrs. R. J. Breckinridge, George Potts, and Thomas Smyth, and Elders, Nathaniel Ewing, and David Fullerton.
The Memorial, after the opening address to the General Assembly, proceeded to justify the course of the Old School, under the circumstances of the times. “That we have not been rash and hasty, nor manifested a factious opposition, to errors and disorders, which were only of small extent, or recent introduction, is manifestly proven by the fact that these evils have been insidiously spreading through our Church for many years and that they have at length become so mature, and so diffused, as not only to pervade large portions of the. Church, but to reign triumphantly over the body itself, through successive General Assemblies. On the other hand, that we have not been wholly faithless to our Master and to truth, we appeal to the constant efforts of some, through the press and pulpit—to the firm and consistent course of some of our Presbyteries and Synod—to the faithful conduct of the minorities in the Assemblies of 1831-32-33-34, and 36—to the Act and Testimony—to the proceedings of the Conventions of Cincinnati in 1831, and Pittsburgh in 1835, and to the noble Assembly of 1835.”
The memorialists then testify, in the following impressive language, that it is the corrupting of the pure gospel of Christ against which they have contended, and that all the other questions are subordinate to this. “We contend, especially and above all, for the truth, as it is made known to us of God, for the salvation of men. We contend for nothing else, except as the result or support of this inestimable treasure. It is because this is subverted that we grieve; it is because our standards teach it, that we bewail their perversion; it is because our Church order and discipline preserve, defend, and diffuse it, that we weep over their impending ruin. It is against error that we emphatically bear our testimony, error dangerous to the souls of men, dishonoring to Jesus Christ, contrary to his revealed truth, and utterly at variance with our standards. Error, not as it may be freely and openly held by others, in this age and land of absolute religious freedom; but error, held and taught in the Presbyterian Church—preached and written by persons who profess to receive and adopt our scriptural standards—promoted by societies operating widely through our churches—reduced into form, and openly embraced by almost entire Presbyteries and Synods—favored by repeated acts of successive General Assemblies, and at last virtually sanctioned, to an alarming extent, by the numerous Assembly of 1836.
“To be more specific, we hereby set forth in order, some of the doctrinal errors against which we bear testimony, and which we, and the churches, have conclusive proof, are widely disseminated in the Presbyterian Church.
“1. That God would have prevented the existence of sin in our world, but was not able without destroying the moral agency of man; or, that for aught that appears in the Bible to the contrary, sin is incidental to any wise moral system.
“2. That election to eternal life is founded on a foresight of faith and obedience.
“3. That we have no more to do with the first sin of Adam than with the sins of any other parent.
“4. That infants come into the world as free from moral defilement as was Adam, when he was created.
“5. That infants sustain the same relation to the moral government of God in this world as brute animals and that their sufferings and death are to be accounted for, on the same principles as those of brutes, and not by any means to be considered as penal.
“6. That there is no other original sin than the fact that all the posterity of Adam, though by nature innocent, or possessed of no moral character, will always begin to sin when they begin to exercise moral agency; that original sin does not include a sinful bias of the human mind, and a just exposure to penal suffering; and that there is no evidence in Scripture, that infants, in order to salvation, do need redemption by the blood of Christ, and regeneration by the Holy Ghost.
“7. That the doctrine of imputation, whether of the guilt of Adam’s sin or of the righteousness of Christ, has no foundation in the Word of God, and is both unjust and absurd.
“8. That the sufferings and death of Christ were not truly vicarious and penal, but symbolical, governmental, and instructive only.
“9. That the impenitent sinner is by nature, and independently of the renewing influence or almighty energy of the Holy Spirit, in full possession of all the ability necessary to a full compliance with all the commands of God.
“10. That Christ does not intercede for the elect until after their regeneration.
“11. That saving faith is not an effect of the special operation of the Holy Spirit, but a mere rational belief of the truth, or assent to the word of God.
“12. That regeneration is the act of the sinner himself, and that it consists in a change of his governing purpose, which he himself must produce, and which is the result, not of any direct influence of the Holy Spirit on the heart, but chiefly, of a persuasive exhibition of the truth analogous to the influence which one man exerts over the mind of another; or, that regeneration is not an instantaneous act, but a progressive work.
“13. That God has done all that he can do for the salvation of all men, and that man himself must do the rest.
“14. That God cannot exert such influence on the minds of men, as shall make it certain that they will choose and act in a particular manner, without impairing their moral agency.
“15. That the righteousness of Christ is not the sole ground of the sinner’s acceptance with God; and that in no sense does the righteousness of Christ become ours.
“16. That the reason why some differ from others in regard to their reception of the Gospel is, that they make themselves to differ.
“It is impossible to contemplate these errors with; out perceiving, that they strike at the foundation of the system of Gospel grace; and that, from the days of Pelagius and Cassian to the present hour, their reception has uniformly marked the character of a Church apostatizing from ‘the faith once delivered to the saints,’ and sinking into deplorable corruption.”
This statement of prevalent errors, after being framed by the committee, was, at their request, carefully revised by the Rev. Dr. Miller, than whom no man in the Church was less open to the charge of giving countenance to false accusations, or imaginary alarms. The above is the form in which the paper was adopted by the Assembly; differing, by three or four mere verbal alterations, from the original, as embodied in the Memorial.
The memorial presented a similar statement of “departures from sound Presbyterian order,” and discipline. It then proceeded to indicate necessary measures of reform. These were, the abrogation of the Plan of Union; the discountenancing of the operations of the American Home Missionary and Education Societies within the ecclesiastical limits of the Church; the bringing into order, dissolution, or separation from the Church, of every inferior court, not regularly organized; the requiring of Presbyteries to examine applicants from other denominations, on theology and church government, personal piety, and ministerial qualifications, and to require of them an explicit adoption of the standards; the enforcing of discipline against heretical ministers, and courts that tolerate them; and the adoption of measures “that such of these bodies as are believed to consist chiefly of decidedly unsound or disorderly members may be separated from the Church,” provision being made for any cases of orderly members or churches among them; and the admonition of such voluntary societies as were not expressly condemned.
This paper was drafted in the name of the Convention, and signed by its officers.
The regular sessions of the Convention continued until the meeting of the General Assembly, when they were merged in conferences held from time to time, as occasion indicated.
Upon the opening of the Assembly, the election of Moderator and clerks showed a decided Old School majority. The Rev. Dr. David Elliott was chosen Moderator, by 137 votes, against 106 cast for the Rev. Baxter Dickinson. On the second day of the sessions, the memorial was presented, and referred to the Committee of Bills and Overtures. The next day it was reported back to the Assembly, and was, at once referred to the Rev. Drs. Alexander, Plumer, Green, Baxter, and Leland, and Elders Walter Lowrie and James Lenox.
On Monday, the 22d, this committee reported, in part, the doctrinal testimony of the Convention, with a few verbal alterations, as above copied. The adoption of this paper was designed as a basis for whatever further, action the Assembly might take; as all recognized this to be the fundamental issue, out of which all the. others had sprung and derived their importance. To defeat this purpose, the New School had recourse to the policy of so overloading the doctrinal testimony, by additions proposed, on points disputed by no one in the Church, as to deprive it of any practical significance or value. To avoid, therefore, a protracted, discussion, the report was, for the present, postponed.
The committee, also, reported resolutions, recommending the cultivation of friendly relations with the Congregational churches; but proposing the abrogation of the Plan of Union. The former was, immediately, adopted. The proposed abrogation of the Plan, elicited earnest discussion. Its unchangeable authority was urged, upon the false assumption, that it was not a mere “Regulation.” of the Assembly, and subject to its discretion, but a solemn “compact,” or covenant, with the Association of Connecticut, which could not be set aside, without a gross breach of faith.
In the course of the discussion, Dr. McAuley asked, whether the abrogation would be retrospective, or prospective only. Dr. Alexander replied, that he, could speak for himself only, that he regarded the proposition as having respect to the future, rather than to the past; that as to the churches already formed under the Plan, he presumed some arrangement would be adopted to allow them a year or so, to choose, between Presbyterianism and the Congregational system.
The abrogation was discussed, till the close of Tuesday’s sessions, when, upon a call for the previous question, the resolution passed, by a vote of 143 to 110.
On the morning of Thursday, the 25th, the committee on the Memorial reported in full; and on the afternoon, Mr. Plumer, in accordance with its suggestions, moved that the proper steps be now taken to cite to the bar of the next Assembly any inferior judicatories charged with disorder; that a committee be appointed to digest the plan of procedure; and that, as citation is the commencement of process, the judicatories involved be excluded from seats in, the next Assembly, till their cases are decided.
In the discussion on these resolutions, it was urged by the New School speakers, that the doctrinal diversities which prevailed were, merely different modes of explaining the doctrines of the Confession; and that the Assembly had no right to try inferior courts, nor to exclude them from their seats, pending process. Dr. Beman warned the house; that this Assembly is a very different body from the next. There may be a change of all its members. The members composing it will come with commissions in their pockets, and cannot be excluded. “The men you propose to exclude are Thermopylae men. They are Smithfield men. This resolution will blow a blast which will bring fifty men to this place, who might now, rightfully, be here. They will meet the question at Philippi, and there will they settle it.”
The warning and defiance thus given were not unheeded. The resolutions were adopted, on Friday evening, upon a call for the previous question, by a vote of 128 to 122. A. committee was then appointed, consisting of Dr. Cuyler, Mr. Breckinridge, Dr. Baxter, Mr. McKennan, and Mr. Baird, to ascertain the judicatories charged with disorders, and report a plan of procedure, in the matter.
Mr. Breckinridge then gave notice that he would, on the next morning, propose the appointment of a committee of equal numbers from the majority and minority, to consult upon a voluntary division of the Church. This motion, upon being presented, in the morning, was adopted. The committee consisted of Rev. R. J. Breckinridge, Dr. Alexander, Dr. Cuyler, Dr. Witherspoon, and Nathaniel Ewing, Esq., on the part of the majority; and Dr. McAuley, Dr. Beman, Dr. Peters, Dr. Dickinson, and William Jessup, Esq., on the part of the minority. The committee and the subject referred to it were then commended to God, in prayer, led by Dr. Baxter.
On the afternoon of Tuesday, the 30th, this committee reported, through Dr. Alexander, that they had not been able to agree. It appeared from the papers submitted, that the two sub-committees were agreed as to the propriety of a voluntary separation; and as to the corporate funds, the names to be held by the two denominations, the records, and the Boards and institutions of the Church. It was agreed that the Old School should retain the name, the Boards, the seminary at Princeton, (Alleghany seems to have been overlooked,) and the records of the Assembly. It was, also, agreed that the New School Assembly should be known as the General Assembly of the American Presbyterian Church; that a certified copy of all the records of the Church should be made for its use, and that the corporate funds of the Church, not belonging to Princeton Seminary, should be equally divided. These amounted, in all, to less than twenty thousand dollars.
The committee disagreed as to the propriety of entering at once upon the division; as to the power of the Assembly to do it; and as to breaking up its succession, the New School insisting that neither of the bodies should be recognized, as; in law, or in fact, the lineal successor of the existing Assembly.
At one stage in the consultations of the committees, they seemed to be about to agree. The minority committee proposed that the points on which they disagreed should be submitted to the Assembly, for its decision. But it appeared, upon explanation, that they did not intend to hold themselves bound by the action of the Assembly, on the points thus to be submitted, should it be contrary to their views. The majority committee, therefore, concluded that a voluntary separation was altogether impossible, and informed the minority that, unless they had something else to offer, this proposition must be considered a virtual waiver of the whole subject. The position maintained by the minority committee was, that they could not assent to any division, by the present Assembly; “as it would, in no wise, be obligatory on any of the judicatories of the Church, or any members of the churches. The only effect would be, a disorderly dissolution of the present Assembly, and be of no binding force or effect upon any member who did not assent to it.” They insisted that, in order to separation, the plan must be sent down to the Presbyteries and receive their sanction, as an amendment of the Constitution.
The motion for the appointment of the joint committee, had been made by Mr. Breckinridge, at the suggestion of Dr. Peters; and it became evident, from the result, that the object was, to postpone action, so as to enable the minority to call the phalanx of “Thermopylae” to the plains of “Philippi,”—to gather a majority for the Assembly of 1838.
The report of the committee put an end to all hope of an amicable division. The committee was, therefore, discharged, and the subject laid on the table.
The Old School were now placed in a most critical situation. “We have responsible names,” said the Rev. Thomas D. Baird, a man whose candor and truth were attested by his opponents themselves, “without any restraint of confidence, except what our own sense of propriety may impose, and we have not the slightest shadow of doubt, that, for the General Assembly, there was a reforming process prepared, on the opposite side, no less severe and decisive than that which was applied by the orthodox. Many, however, are so easily scandalized, by an exposition of names, that we shall, at present, forbear; and only state what we distinctly understood to be a part of the contemplated process. 1. The removal and change of at least two of the Princeton professors. This has sometimes been the subject of conversation, for years, and had now become ripe for execution. 2. The entire change of the Boards of Missions and Education. A partial attempt was made at this alteration last year, which was to have been carried out at the late Assembly, had not a wise and kind Providence interposed to defeat it. These two acts would have entirely changed the face and character of the Presbyterian Church; had nothing else been done; but the process was not to end there. 3. Individuals and judicatories were to be subjected—according to the invidious phraseology now adopted—to the guillotine; and, no doubt, in the hands of New School men, it would have been a lawful and wise expedient.”
The alternative now presented to the majority was, to take decisive steps for the reform of the Church, or supinely surrender her to the patrons of the new theology.
In the discussion, on the citation of inferior judicatories, Dr. Beman had so ably exhibited the embarrassments to which that proceeding would be liable, as to create very serious apprehensions, as to the result. These were increased, by the closeness of the vote on the measure, the majority being reduced to six, in consequence of distrust in the practicability of the plan. Pondering upon the situation, Dr. Baxter was led to reflect that those inferior courts which were infected with unsound doctrine, had, almost without exception, been organized and still remained under the Plan of Union; and that as all that has been done upon an unconstitutional basis falls with it, the abrogation of the Plan operated to the dissolution of those courts. Pending the conference upon amicable separation, a meeting of the Convention was called, the suggestion laid before it and approved, and action in accordance with it decided upon.
Upon the discharge; therefore, of the Committee of Conference, Mr. Plumer moved,
“That, by the operation of the abrogation of the Plan of Union of 1801, the Synod of the Western Reserve is, and is hereby declared to be, no longer a part of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America.”
During the discussion of this resolution, Dr. Junkin was interrupted, in a statement of the heresies and disorders prevalent in the Western Reserve, by Mr. Seward of that Synod; who offered himself, as a witness in its behalf.
He was asked, ” Did you assent to the Constitutional questions, prescribed for ministers, at your ordination?”
To this he refused to answer.
Dr. Beman. “ Mr. Seward has been interrupted by questions.”
The Moderator. ” Mr. Seward requested that he might be questioned.”
Mr. Seward. ” I do adopt the book.”
Question. ” Did you do so, at your ordination?”
Mr. Brown, Elder from the Presbytery of Lorain: “We have been greatly misrepresented. There are thirty Presbyterian Churches in our Synod.”
Dr. Cuyler. “There are one hundred and thirty-nine churches in the Synod.”
Mr. Brown. “The Confessions used in these churches are abstracts of the Presbyterian Confession. My Presbytery consists of twelve churches; I do not know of more than one, that is strictly Presbyterian.”
Mr. H. Kingsbury, an elder from the Cleaveland church, said, “I have a substantial copy, made by myself, of a certificate given me by the Rev. S. C. Aikin, and which I have carried for two years, to show that I am an elder. I got it because I was once a committee man and sat in the Assembly, where my seat was challenged.”
Mr. Breckinridge. ” Is he a ruling elder, ordained according to the Book?”
Mr. Kingsbury. ” I will answer no questions. I am not on trial.”
Mr. Breckinridge. “I am credibly informed that he never was an elder; and that, there is no board of elders in his church. I ask Mr. Kingsbury now, if he ever adopted the Book ?”
Mr. Kingsbury. ” I answer no questions.”
Subsequently, Dr. Peters stated that Mr. Kingsbury authorized him to explain, that he had declined to answer, because he was not on trial; but that be was ordained a ruling elder two years and a half ago.
Mr. Breckinridge. “Will Mr. Kingsbury now say whether he ever adopted the Constitution of the Presbyterian Church?”
Mr. Kingsbury. “I answer no questions.”
Mr. Breckinridge. “That’s enough.”
After an able discussion, the resolution was adopted, by a vote of 132 to 105.
The same rule was subsequently passed, with reference to the Synods of Utica, Geneva, and Genesee, by 115 to 88.
The Assembly, at the same time, recorded that its solicitude on the subject and urgency for its immediate decision, were greatly increased, “by reason of the gross disorders which are ascertained to have prevailed in those Synods; it being made clear to us, that even the Plan of Union itself was never consistently carried into effect, by those professing to act under it.” It declared that it had no intention to affect, in any way, the standing of ministers or members, as such, nor the mutual and several relations and duties of pastors and people; but only to declare their relation to the Assembly and the Presbyterian Church.
It also directed, that any orderly ministers and churches which might be within the bounds of the four disowned Synods, should apply for admission into such Presbyteries belonging to our connection as may be most convenient; and that any orderly Presbyteries, in similar circumstances, report themselves to the next Assembly, for direction.
The elective affinity Presbytery of Philadelphia, which had been the occasion of so much controversy and evil, was now dissolved, and its ministers, licentiates, and churches directed to apply to the proper surrounding Presbyteries for admission.
Late in the sessions, the committee on the citation of inferior judicatories reported. Its chief functions bad been superseded by these measures of the Assembly.
It, however, recommended that the Synods of Albany, New Jersey, Michigan, Cincinnati, and Illinois, be admonished to take order respecting errors in doctrine and disorders, which were charged by common fame against certain of their Presbyteries, and to report thereon to the next Assembly. The report was adopted.
These were the principal measures of this Assembly. The testimony of the Convention, against doctrinal errors, and violations of order, was also, adopted; and the American Education and Home Missionary Societies were requested to cease to operate within the Church; a Board of Foreign Missions was appointed; and a pastoral letter to the churches, and a circular letter to all the churches of Christ, with respect to these transactions, were issued. Protests against these various measures were entered, and replies made.
In the protest against the testimony on doctrinal error the minority arrayed, in opposing paragraphs, the errors condemned by the Assembly and the doctrines embraced by the Protestants. The profession of faith thus presented was, on some essential points, ambiguous, and, on others palpably erroneous.
The Assembly made no other answer to this paper than to require the attention of the Presbyteries to which they respectively belonged to the avowals thus made by the subscribers to the protest.
Two other measures, of a cautionary nature, were adopted. To guard against a possible policy, the clerks were directed to enroll no newly-formed Presbytery, until it shall have been reported to the Assembly and recognized by it. Should it appear that any new Presbytery had been formed with a view to unduly increase the representation, the Assembly declared that it would refuse to receive its commissioners, and might order the Presbytery to be reunited to that from which it had been taken.
It was further moved to require of the Assembly’s clerks, the Rev. Drs. J. McDowell and J. M. Krebs, a pledge to conform their action to the regulations at this time passed by it. Those officers anticipated the adoption of the motion, by severally stating, that, as they were merely administrative officers, they held themselves bound to conform strictly, in their official action, to the determinations of the Assembly. The motion was, thereupon, withdrawn.
Such were the proceedings of this Assembly, which has been the object of an extraordinary amount of obloquy and reproach. The design of this history does not permit a detailed exposition of the arguments presented in the discussions, and the various incidents of the proceedings. But one remark may not be suppressed Whether estimated by the number of eminent and venerable names to be found on its rolls, by the peril to the cause of Christ which called them together, the difficulties and embarrassments with which they were called to contend, the ability of the discussions, the moderation and prudence, the firmness and courage, displayed, the wisdom and fitness of the measures adopted, or the peace and prosperity, for so many years enjoyed, as the blessed results, the reforming Assembly of 1837 ranks with the most illustrious of the faithful councils with which God has blessed his Church. Memory fondly lingers over the record of their beloved and venerable names, whilst they sleep peacefully in the dust. It drops a tear upon the recent graves of an Engles and a Junkin, and reverently counts up the three or four who still remain, last relics of the former age. And now, a new generation has arisen. The attempt is assiduously made to disparage the wisdom and fidelity of those men of God, to whom our Church owes such a debt of undying gratitude. Men whose glory it once was to shine in their reflected light, are heard with patience, whilst assuming an apologetic tone, on behalf of those great men gone. They were good men, indeed; but borne away by the excitement of the time, to acts of unjustifiable violence and wrong! Their work is disparaged and maligned. All the arts of management and enginery of excitement are brought into requisition to hurry the Church into a temporary forgetfulness, and persuade her to destroy all that they so painfully and prayerfully wrought. The same ambition for a vast communion, with which they had to contend, gives impetus to the present movement; and there seem to be many who are anxious to revive and restore to honor, those latitudinarian principles and that Broad Church policy, which they cast out of the sanctuary, as unclean things.
Who can witness these portentous facts, without emotions of alarm, and the distressful ejaculation of the bereaved prophet of Israel—my “father! my father! The chariot of Israel and the horsemen thereof!”
The Assembly of 1837 had not yet adjourned, when an attempt was made to stigmatize the majority, by the pretence that it was acquired by a corrupt alliance with the South in the interest of slavery. To this charge, the answer is decisive. The agitation of the slavery question, in connection with abolitionism, was then new in the Church. The first Assembly which took action on it, subsequent to 1818, was the New School Assembly of 1836. The action taken by it was to postpone indefinitely the whole subject; and that on the ground that, “no church judicatory ought to pretend to make laws to bind the conscience in virtue of their own authority;” and that the shortness of the Assembly’s sessions rendered it “impossible to deliberate and decide judiciously on the subject of slavery, in its relations to the Church.” A majority of the affirmative votes on this postponement was composed of members who voted for the acquittal of Mr. Barnes. In the Convention of 1837 the subject came up, incidentally, upon occasion of its mention in a paper communicated to the body. It elicited no action, however, and seems to have been alluded to by none but Southern members, Mr. Smyth and Mr. Plumer expressing the opinion that the Assembly ought to take no action on the subject; and Mr. Breckinridge taking the ground that no other subject should be allowed to mix itself with the reform of the Church; and, that, on the one hand, the spirit of abolitionism was to be exceedingly deprecated, as an absorbing and destructive fanaticism; and, on the other, the Assembly could not go back from the action formerly taken on the subject of slavery. As to any private understanding or compact, there is not a trace of evidence to sustain it. The Rev. Samuel Steele of Ohio was named as an Old School abolitionist, who was a party to the pretended covenant. But he emphatically and unreservedly denied the charge. The Rev. Thomas D. Baird was one of the Secretaries of this Convention, and Vice President of that of 1838; and may be supposed to have been in the confidence, and possessed of any secrets of the Old School. He, in common with all the other members of the Convention, declared his entire ignorance of any understanding whatever, with respect to slavery. In fact, no such arrangement was made. The votes of the Southern commissioners in the Assembly were determined by other causes already indicated; and the fact that the Old School were unwilling to be diverted by the question of slavery from the great issues before them, and that the New School, who, in the preceding Assembly had avoided this subject, were anxious, now, that the South was lost to them, to press it on the Assembly, and willing to see their opponents distracted by it, needs no explanation.