Intolerance or Suppression of Opinion.
Persons might conjecture that the avowed principles of Oberlin abolitionists on the subject of slavery specifically, freedom of speech and liberty of the press would be maintained with unabated zeal on all other subjects, as a right belonging to themselves and all others.
But so far from this, they advocate correct principles and support natural rights only while it subserves their own interests to do so. They are found trampling them in the dust when their exercise tends to invalidate their peculiar views on moral, political, or religious questions.
Thus have I been treated by the dear brethren of Oberlin, a people who, loud in their denunciation of slavery, are the very first to exercise the same power when put into their own hands. Yes, so much worse are they than those who enslave the body as the slavery of the body is exceeded by the slavery of the mind.
In the next chapter I will give a brief synopsis of my own stay in Oberlin, but here I shall notice their general treatment of students who deem it impossible to agree with them in sentiment.
The Official Rules
It matters not whether the individual maintains the same religious sentiments that he held before entering the Institution or whether he has been led to differ after an association with them for months or years. True, they prefer admitting young men into the Institution who are already orthodox in sentiment, yet persons not orthodox are occasionally admitted.
I should be glad, had I room, to insert the entire Laws of the Institution, none of which were ever made known to the students until a few months ago. I here insert one of the laws referring to the admission and dismission of students.
The above Laws were adopted a year or two ago, but their utility was not fully tested until recently. Then it was found necessary to throw them entirely away or else give them a very singular construction. This was because some young men who entered the Institution with good moral characters were able to retain them without becoming Oberlinized, while other individuals who entered the Institution agreeing with them in sentiment might change their theological views yet still retain their morality.
Therefore, the Faculty put the following construction upon the latter clause of the 4th section, namely, that individuals might be admitted who were not Christians in order that they might become such, but if they should remain impenitent after a fair trial had been made to convert them, they could then be dismissed at their option.
Accordingly young men of unimpeachable character who had left their homes and come the distance of 500 to 1,000 miles for the purpose of obtaining education are now dismissed from the Institution, barely for opinion's sake. Others of the same character who are still connected with the Institution are haunted and driven from corner to nook and from nook to corner, with all the ingenuity they can devise, for the purpose of inducing them either voluntarily to subscribe to their creeds and opinions or to leave the Institution.
This sort of oppression and tyranny is more particularly exercised over the sons of poor men, while those young men who have been sent here by wealthy patrons of the Institution are treated more kindly.
At the present time, there are numbers who are passing through this fiery ordeal who long for deliverance and would fain avail themselves of it could they do so. Some are laboring under pecuniary embarrassment, others are obliged to remain by the compulsion of pious parents, et cetera.
Engineer Braman, Flour Man, and Captain Tracy
Another evidence of Oberlin's intolerant spirit is manifest in their treatment of some few laboring men who have come among them from time to time for the purpose of obtaining a livelihood. I will give one or two isolated cases, wherein their true characters are well portrayed.
Something more than a year ago, a very indigent man by the name of Braman moved into the place for the purpose of attending the steam mills belonging to the Institution. He did so, and through industry and economy he was enabled to feed his family. However, he soon met with a misfortune which rendered him unable to labor. In working among the machinery, his arm was drawn by the cogs into the wheels and broken to pieces.
In a few weeks his scanty hard-earned store of provisions had failed him. With much reluctance, he then had to call upon his religious neighbors for assistance. He was told that they could not assist him unless he would sign an agreement, pledging himself to adopt and practice certain religious sentiments and consequently to abandon his present views. But this he could not consistently do.
He made his case known to me, declaring his determination to die rather than comply with such absurd and unjust propositions. I immediately circulated a subscription among a few of my friends whose liberality I well knew. Through the little assistance rendered, and by selling his last cow, he was enabled to leave the town without pledging or selling his rights.
Another case of more recent occurrence deserves a notice. An individual at the head of a large family who was similarly laboring under pecuniary embarrassment was employed by the Institution to go to Cleveland and obtain a load of flour. It being the last of the week, on his return he found it impossible to reach Oberlin on Saturday evening. He was unable to bear the expenses of spending the Sabbath at a public house; besides which, he had left his family almost destitute of bread and without any means to procure more. Therefore he drove in on the Sabbath. For his awful wickedness and presumption, he has been also vilified and driven from the place!
I will relate the substance of one more case, which exhibits in a very peculiar manner their sectarian zeal. About two years ago, Capt. Tracy, from Huntington in the south part of Lorain County, was returning from a journey. He reached Oberlin in the evening, and being some ten or fifteen miles from home, he concluded to make application to one of the colonists for entertainment during the night.
But being interrogated as to his religious sentiments, and it being ascertained that he was a Universalist, he was denied refreshment or entertainment of any kind!
There being no public house in the place in 1835, he was obliged to pursue his journey, amid darkness, rough roads, and the inclemency of the weather.
I might advance very many cases to show their almost unparalleled superstition, intolerance, and barbarous persecutions. I have given these by the urgent request of the sufferers themselves, whom I trust will feel an ample reward in their own bosoms through the expression of public indignation toward these violators of their natural rights.
I also trust that all who are in any wise interested, before yielding or listening to the advocates of this Institution, would inquire into these things and see whether they are really so. When you have ascertained the truth, act accordingly.
What Sort of Man Is an Oberlin Man?
Good men are still connected with this Institution who have longed for her reformation and prosperity but who have looked, waited, and striven against the tide in vain. Of this I have no doubt. Indeed, I know that such men have been connected with the Institution and after a fair trial have left, discouraged and disgusted, with the conviction that the Institution was wholly unworthy the further patronage of the Church and unmeriting the respect of virtuous men.
Yet, the officers and agents of the Institution not contented with having gleaned from the community $250,000 besides a yearly tax of thousands and tens of thousands more are still calling upon the public for more funds. And what do we get in exchange? Need I answer the question?
These are the men who, under the garb of benevolence, violate the salubrious laws of the land and instruct their followers to do the same.
These are the men who declare by their acts that to differ with them in religion or politics is a sin against God and cannot be tolerated.
These are the men, too, who are lying like so many blood-suckers upon the public, soliciting funds to prosecute their diabolical measures while very sanctimoniously asking alms to educate their young men that they may go and convert and reform the poor licentious heathen. Yes, fine subjects are they indeed after making confessions of so much licentiousness and depravity to reform the licentious heathen. O, consistency! Thou art indeed a jewel.
Finally, should these men gain the ascendency in this country, what need we expect but that they would place upon the neck of every one who would not bow at their feet and submit to their ipsi dixit, the leaden jaw and iron foot of oppression! Surely, these considerations constrain me to cry out, in the language of the immortal Cicero, Forbid it, my country! Forbid it, Justice!
But since man is a changeable being and there is a redeeming spirit in the land, and since truth is mighty and will prevail, I am encouraged to hope that this appeal will not be in vain but that Justice may at length gird on her sword and, with her iron rod in her hand, render unto these desperadoes their just dues.
And yet this will not be done until Public Opinion, with her just judgment, shall consent to lash them naked through her dominions.
Continue to Concluding Remarks.