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(1839) Daniel A. Payne, “Slavery Brutalizes Man”


Daniel A. Payne was born on February 24, 1811, in Charleston, South Carolina, the son of free blacks. Educated at a Charleston school established by free blacks and by a private tutor, he mastered mathematics, Greek, Latin, and French. In 1826 Payne joined the Methodist Episcopal Church and three years later opened a school for African American children, which he conducted until the South Carolina legislature passed a law on December 17, 1834 to prohibit schools from teaching slaves or free blacks to read and write. Forced to abandon his school, Payne entered the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, and became a Lutheran preacher. Later, he left the Lutheran Church and joined the African Methodist Episcopal Church in 1841. Eleven years later he was elected a bishop. In 1863 Daniel Payne became president of Wilberforce University, an Ohio institution established for the education of African Americans in 1856, and served in that office for thirteen years. He was the first African American selected to lead a college.

In June 1839, Payne delivered the oration at Fordsboro, New York, on the occasion of his ordination by the Franckean Synod of the Lutheran Church. The speech was delivered in support of a synodical report to end slavery in America. The speech helped persuade the synod leadership to support the report. Payne’s speech appeared in the Lutheran Herald and Journal of the Fort Plain, N.Y., Franckean Synod 1:15 (August 1, 1839), 113-14. It is posted here with permission of the Lutheran Theological Seminary, Abdel Ross Wentz Library, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

MR. PRESIDENT: I move the adoption of the Report, because it is based upon the following propositions: American Slavery brutalizes man—destroys his moral agency, and subverts the moral government of God. Sir, I am opposed to slavery, not because it enslaves the black man, but because it enslaves man. And were all the slaveholders in this land men of color, and the slaves white men, I would be as thorough and uncompromising an

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