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Oberlin
Unmasked

by Delazon Smith, a Student

Written 1837
Condensed 2019

~

Preface by TBT.

Conduct and Character
of the Church.

Introduction.

Conduct and Character, Concluded.

Course of Study,
and Manual Labor.

Abolition.

Board and
Mode of Living.

Intolerance or
Suppression of Opinion.

Connexion of Male and
Female Departments.

Concluding Remarks.

 

Disclaimer, by an Alumnus:  After its rather rocky first decade, Oberlin College has become much more worthy of our support....

....

 

Conduct and Character, Concluded.

I will now give the outlines of a few cases of the conduct of theological students which I have witnessed myself when out at abolition conventions, meetings, et cetera.

The two events I am about to relate took place during the last year.  The first was at Granville, Ohio, in the central portion of the state, and the second was at Poland, Ohio, near the border with Pennsylvania.

 

The Egged White Hat

I attended the State Anti-Slavery Convention at Granville in the spring of 1836.  On the second day of the session, who should arrive but our reverend and famous Secretary of the Oberlin Abolition Society, U. T. Chamberlin, a theological student.

One of his first inquiries was whether there were any indications of a mob. On being answered in the affirmative, our truly famous Apostle of Liberty expressed his readiness to meet it, or even death if need be.

But when the mob made their attack, our hero was discovered to be ensconced behind the door.  He excused himself for having deserted his brethren in the hour of peril by saying that he was a tall man, and because he wore a white hat, the mob would have taken him for a Doctor of Divinity.

We soon made our escape from the town and had not proceeded far before we were again attacked by four or five persons armed with rotten eggs.  Our renowned hero's faith was again severely tried.  On being interrogated by them, he denied his faith in toto, crying out “No, no, I am not an abolitionist! No, no, we are not abolitionists!”

Thus our mighty hero, having rendered himself extremely ridiculous, reached Oberlin.  There he was very assiduously engaged for several days in exhibiting his trophy of victory: the contents of one of those loathsome missiles hurled at us when engaged in our second combat.  It had fastened itself to his hat, and he had preserved it for nearly one hundred miles to exhibit it to his brethren on his return.

Thus much for the honesty and heroic bravery of our reverend Secretary.

 

The Quarrelsome Preachers

Another instance of piety, or rather of contemptible hypocrisy, is that of two theological students whom I shall call T and G.  In the summer of 1836, they stopped at Poland in Trumbull County to spend the Sabbath.

On Sunday morning, T went to a place several miles distant to preach.  G remained in company with me through the day, and during the absence of his friend, he told me that he and his brother had been to Pittsburgh to be licensed.  They quarreled all the way there and thus far back, because his brother was “a contemptible scoundrel.”

T was pursuing a “call to preach,” so he wanted to stop and give a sermon in every town to try his skill and perhaps secure a location.  G had a mind to go on without him.

In the evening T returned, and we all repaired to church to hear him deliver a sermon.  He called on G to assist in reading hymns, praying, et cetera.  Afterwards  G told me that usually he could make a “pretty fair prayer,” but that in this instance he was so curséd mad that he could not “pray worth a snap!”  We then repaired to the house of a brother, and after the usual routine of reading, singing and praying, we retired.

The following morning, these “love one another” brethren had a very warm and contested quarrel.  Afterwards T called me to one side and, not willing to be one whit behind, gave G his full due in his own coin.

Then we all departed in company for Oberlin.  These “be not angry with one another” Christians alternately rode in silent sullenness, and quarreled and slandered each other's character.

After arriving at Oberlin, each in their turn confided to me that they still felt the same towards each other, but now they were obliged to keep peace by putting on the appearance of repentance.  Preaching the gospel was to be their business, and they were members of the same church.

These two individuals are now in the field laboring for the salvation of souls.

 

Why Do Such As These Remain?

No one can doubt that the Church are to blame for retaining such members.  Yet the Church have not been altogether negligent, for some have been excommunicated for a disbelief of the Scriptures — many months after their sentiments were fully known.  Others have been censured for Sabbath breaking, whiskey drinking, wife whipping, et cetera.

It need not be wondered that such offences should be frequent in Oberlin when we have learned the general character of its inhabitants, both students and colonists.

Most students are possessed of very ordinary talents.  They are fit subjects to become the willing dupes of designing demagogues, to receive and promulgate any and all opinions which may be presented to them, and to follow any direction that pleases their leaders or the superstitious notions of the multitude.

The colonists, almost without exception, are the most illiterate, unlettered persons with whom I have ever been acquainted.  There are not even enough men of requisite talent to execute the official business of the town.  Yet they have made rapid progress in speculation, lying, cheating, and every other species of dishonesty, with the assistance of R.E. Gillet, the General Agent, and Levi Brunell, the Secretary.

This will be seen from the letters of Nathan P. Fletcher, Esquire.  Mr. Fletcher, a gentleman of talent and wealth, was formerly the General Agent of the Institution.  However, he was constrained to resign, and he is now pointing out the mismanagement and dishonesty of those who have had the control of the concern for the last two years.  I take the liberty to quote from his fifth letter, dated May 24, 1837.

It is said corporations have no soul.  I am led oftentimes to believe that the individuals composing them have no consciences either.  Each one throws the responsibility on his neighbor.

This letter pertains to the appointment of Levi Brunell as Secretary, Treasurer, et cetera.  I have nothing here to do with the personal character of the man, but with only his qualifications and the propriety of his appointment.

At the time he was Chief Clerk of the Lorain Iron Company. That company, while in full and apparent prosperity, was shut up — property transferred, and a complete failure announced!  And the subtle manager of this farce behind the screen was Levi Brunell.

The transactions of the members of that chartered company are deeply marked with fraud and peculation.  Every individual member is now lavishing in prosperity — after disconsolating and cheating many poor, yet better men.

Knowing all these things, the Board of Trustees of the Oberlin Collegiate Institution, in defiance of every moral and politic principle, made the appointment of Levi Brunell!

They have sanctioned the cheat of the Iron Company.  Levi Brunell is retained here to play the same game — to prepare the way and carry to final consummation the destruction of the College. Even now, while the fatal bark is calmly passing down the current with the indefatigable manager at the wheel, he assures his friends and patrons of a good course and happy arrival. Alas! alas!

There is another in this group of cheats, but he stands in the background and is really too contemptible to be mentioned.  As he calls himself one of the Faculty, and the factotum of every little affair, and the ostensible Agent of the concern, I need not now draw a picture of the scenery.  I only draw the outlines, that the Board may receive the warning — if one single moral principle yet predominates — ere the whirlpool of destruction engulf the concern, and infamy and disgrace be written upon Oberlin, and God's unmixed anger be poured out without measure, and its foundations entirely razed!

I have now given at least a skeleton of the abominations sanctioned, encouraged and practiced by the Church at Oberlin.  Both before and after her confessions of hypocrisy, we observe her attributing her success as a Church and Institution very sanctimoniously to God.  “We are indeed the people, and wisdom will die with us” — this appears to be the language of the officers and students of the Institution and Church.

Now and then an individual comes out and declares his disbelief in the Bible or in the influence of the Holy Ghost.  This raises a little excitement, and then he settles back again into the belief that he is a Christian.

Another individual will come forward and declare that he has sold the favor of God and eternal happiness, nailed Jesus Christ to the cross and thrust a spear into his side — simply for a cud of tobacco!  Or he has done so by using tea or coffee or the products of slave labor, et cetera.

He will request prayers that he may not drop instantaneously into Hell, as he is quite sure that he hangs over that infernal abode, suspended by a single hair!

Then after having brought himself into public notice, and the excitement having abated, he immediately resumes his former practices with as much coldness and unconcern as he would have in demonstrating a problem in mathematics.

I have not been enabled to give all of their abominations, as the most flagrant ones are kept secret.  But if I have been enabled to delineate so many after a residence of less than two years, what must the entire catalogue exhibit?

 

Continue to “Abolition.

 

TBT

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