A PREACHER IN THE MARYLAND PENITENTIARY.
To the Editor of The N. Y. Tribune.
SIR: This Anti-Slavery controversy is bringing many dark things to light. I have just read a pamphlet, put forth by the Rev. J. M. McCarter, of the Philadelphia Conference, now resident minister of the M. E. Church in Harrisburg, Pa., in which he shows that a colored preacher of his church is now in the Maryland Penitentiary, for the crime of having in his possession a copy of Uncle Tom's Cabin. They way by which this dark deed become known was merely incidental, and is thus narrated by The Philadelphia Evening Bulletin, and reprinted in the pamphlet:—
'On Saturday afternoon of the Conference, [the Philadelphia, held in Easton, Pa., last April,] two scenes occurred which illustrate at least the difference of opinion that exists in regard to the moral estimate put on the same locality. After the character of the Rev. John Allen, from the southern part of the peninsula, Eastern Shore of Maryland, was passed, he asked permission to make a statement in regard to his connection with slavery. The Rev. gentleman said he had in his family a manumitted slave, who was to be free at the age of 22 or 23, and that he did not consider himself a slaveholder. The gentleman then pronounced a high panegyric on the South generally, and the lower part of the peninsula particularly. He called it Paradise, 'the land of Beulah,' and his feelings seemed to carry him away into a state of delightful complacency, as well in regard to himself as the object of his idolatry. He gave it great praise, and even spoke in raptures of its institutions. A few moments after, when the name of Handy Long, a colored local preacher of Newton, Md., was called, the Rev. J. M. McCarter arose after hearing of the case as represented by the Rev. Mr. Colelazer, and remarked that he felt some interest in the case, for the reason that he had the sur-name as his friend, (pointing to the Rev. J. D. Long); he hoped and believed that he was deserving of all the good that had been said of him; that he would cheerfully give him his vote, but he was sincerely desirous that he should be put on his guard against his having a copy of Uncle Tom's Cabin in his possession.
'Interrupted by the Rev. P. Combe, who, appealing to the Chair, wished to know if the brother was in order, and what Uncle Tom's Cabin had to do with the case before us?
Mr. McCarter continued—I was remarking that some good friend should inform this local preacher, about to be elected to orders, to be sure not to have a copy of Uncle Tom's Cabin in his possession, as a brother of his color, an acceptable member and exhorter of the Methodist Episcopal Church, named Samuel Greene, was now in the Maryland Penitentiary, sentenced thereto for ten years, for the grave offence of having a single volume of that offensive and incendiary publication in his house. The Dorchester County Court had last spring passed sentence upon him for ten years, and to-day, while we are here, he is incarcerated for ten long years for that which is no moral offence.'
Mr. McCarter, the resident M. E. Minister in Harrisburgh, Pa., further adds in his recent pamphlet:—
'We had a long conversation with the pastor of Samuel Greene at the Conference, and learned that his name was still continued on the Quarterly Conference Record of the Circuit, as a regularly licensed exhorter in the church. The excellence of the character of this incarcerated man is attested everywhere in Dorchester County, where he is known and among whom he has lived. He was exceedingly useful also among the colored free people and slaves, and often in their meeting-houses preached to them the word of life.'
William Pitt once said in the British Parliament that 'one fact was worth a thousand arguments.' Well, here we have a fact, setting forth a base deed, contemptible as the locality from which it emanated, and one, too, that is so well authenticated. It is this:—That Samuel Greene, technically an exhorter, but really, as Mr. McCarter terms him, a preacher in the M. E. Church to the colored people, is now in the Maryland State Prison, and has yet more than nine dreary years to stay, for the infraction of a Maryland law which is one of the most infamous that was ever enacted on God's round earth, in either ancient or modern times, in civilized or savage countries. (See 2 Dorsey, p. 1218.) Has papal Rome or inquisitorial Spain ever gone beyond this?
Whither are we driving? Slavery is coming up North and looking into our doors and into our churches. Having invaded States rights, it is now scoffing at church rules, imprisoning her teachers, and dragging tens of thousands of her members into distant and degrading bondage. And where are our Bishops, Synods and Conferences, whose flocks are thus plundered? In other days, when a number of Christians had been taken into captivity, Bishops wrote to St. Cyprian, imploring his assistance for their redemption. He shed tears on reading these letters, and raised large sums from the clergy and people of Carthage for their release, and St. Ambrose even melted down the sacred vessels of Milan for the same purpose.
But again, what are our Bishops and Chief Ministers doing for the members of their flocks who are in prison and in captivity? The Great Shepherd requires them to regard 'those who are in bonds as bound with them,' and He further says: 'Inasmuch as ye did it not unto one of the least of these, ye did it no unto me.' These ministers, at their ordination, promised God and the Church that they would 'take heed of the flock over whom the Holy Ghost has made them overseers.' Are they doing it? Their vows are upon them, their indifference will be criminality. Samuel Greene, in the Maryland Penitentiary, is only one among the hundreds of thousands of professed Christians who are in captivity in this Great Southern Prison-House. And yet the Church is silent; but thank God for the political party which is consolidating itself to resist the aggressions of this scourge of our land and corrupter of the Church. And at the approaching ballot-boxes let every one who calls himself a Christian vote as a Christian should and remember those are in bonds as bound with them.
We have see some reference in the columns of some of our exchanges to the case of a colored man in Maryland, alleged to have
been sent to the Penitentiary for ten years for having in his possession a
copy of 'Uncle Tom's Cabin;' but we have no where met with a detailed account of the case till we received the above communication on the subject. This unfortunate man is, it seems, a Methodist exhorter, acting occasionally as a preacher, and as such still borne on the Record of the Quarterly Conference of the Circuit. He is described as being a man of excellent character, and the sole offense for which he was sent to the Penitentiary—where he has now been confined for nearly a year—is the having in his possession a single volume of the book referred to. The scene of this extraordinary dispensation of justice was Dorchester County, Md., on the southern border of that State. We have not just now at hand the statute of Maryland under which the trial took place, but will endeavor to obtain and publish it. We shall then be able to decide whether the disgrace of this infamous proceeding overshadows the whole people of Maryland, or whether it is limited to the Dorchester magistrates, who, to gratify their spite, have perverted the law.
Meanwhile, we are glad to see that this most infamous case is beginning to attract the attention of the Methodist connection. Attention was called to it, as it appears, in the Philadelphia Conference held at Easton last Spring, but we trust the matter is not to be allowed to rest there. Our correspondent and the Rev. J. M. McCarter, to whose pamphlet he refers, have done good service in calling attention to the case. We trust means will be found to bring it to the special attention not only of every Conference, but of every Methodist church in the country. So long as this unfortunate man remains in prison, public prayers ought to be offered up every Sunday in every Methodist Church in the country for his deliverance. Fervent, effectual prayer availeth much; and we have not the least doubt that, if this experiment were tried, within six months at the farthest, the Methodists would success in praying him out of prison. Should they desire the aid of others, there are plenty of all denominations who will be ready to aid them in this good and religious work. Not only might Samuel Green be thus delivered, but the legislature of Maryland might be induced to repeal or essentially to modify a statute capable of being abused for so cruel and tyrannical a purpose.