The GOSPEL TRUTH
CHARLES G. FINNEY
To William Goodell
27 November 1855
[MS in William Goodell Papers, Archives and Special Collections, Hutchins Library, Berea College, KY]
William Goodell (1782-1878) was a leading political abolitionist. Since helping to organize the American Anti-Slavery Society in 1833, he had become one of the major propagandists for the cause, writing voluminously and editing several antislavery newspapers. Standing apart from the main political parties, he, Gerrit Smith, and a few others, sought to win over the antislavery ranks to radical abolitionism through alternative political organizations. By the mid-1850s, however, their attempts, through the Liberty Party, the Liberty League and the National Liberty Party, had all failed. So in 1855 they organised the American Abolition Society in an attempt "to mold radical abolitionism into an independent movement and make it a viable alternative to both the moderate antislavery stance of the Republican Party and the disunionist position of the Garrisonians" (Meyer Leon Perkal, "American Abolition Society: A Viable Alternative to the Republican Party?" in Journal of Negro History, Vol. 65, No. 1 [Winter 1980], p. 57).
In August 1855 Goodell started a new monthly, the Radical Abolitionist, to be the official journal of the movement. (See DAB.)
The original letter in the William Goodell Papers, contains various editorial amendments--punctuation, paragraph markings, clarification of words, etc--to prepare it for publication. It was published, with minor alterations, in the Radical Abolitionist (New York) Vol. 1, No. 6 (January 1856), p. 1.
Oberlin College 27. Nov. 1855.
My Dear Br. Goodell,
Your Radical Abolitionist pleases
me much. I agree with you in views & could not
state my own better or much otherwise than you
state them. You have not only gotten the truth, but
also, what is almost equally important, the true & only
efficient way of stating it. Essays are not the things.
Propositions, irresistibly perspicuous, in statement, &
selfevident in truthfulness, are just the thing. It has long
seemed to me that the views you hold of the constitution
are correct, & if they were not that the continuance of our
federal government is neither possible, nor desirable.
The propositions announced at the recent abolition convention
in Boston affirm the only true doctrine, in my estimation.
That these principles thus affirmed, will be understood
& assented to by the American people, I hope and believe.
& my confidence in this is precisely as my hope or wish
that the American government may stand.
The fact is, Br. G. there is progress, great progress. Some years
since, I urged you to write some books which you have
worthily done. Now, you are giving the results of all
your thoughts & researches in this propositional form
to the publick. You now occupy the right position.
Your principles are sound--well digested - irresistibly
stated & not too much at a time. Your paper is, at present
large enough. Truth so condensed & stated can not
be digested except in small portions, by the people.
If a large sheet should contain, as it might, all you
have said in your 5. Nos. It would do indefinitely
less execution. And then all but some 12. or 20 of
your strong points, would of necessity go undigested &
as you would not feel like soon repeating them the
rest, as is always the case, would go for waste paper.
Give the people your clear positions as they can digest
them. For the present & until the foundations are well laid
in first principles, your paper is published often enough.
Meals especially of strong food should not be too near
to gether. It will take the old fogies on the one hand
& the rash aggitators on the other, a month to well
digest the contents of each number & withal avoid
an acid stomach. The Spirit, as well as the form of your
statements, ple[a]ses me well. The same sentiment acrimo
niously stated would repel & anger rather than convince.
I see, my Br. that God is directing you. No property in
man! Legalized slavery is an absurdity! The American
constitution ^ & government oughthe ought to be the stern
& unbending antagonist of all oppression!
God bless you, Br. Goodell. This is right & nothing else
is right. I do not see how any man of sense & of sound
conscience can deny these positions. But I am writing
too much. Every No. of your paper makes me desire to bid you
God Speed. Away with compromises with sin. Our country is
soon ruined unless these principles prevail. Please present my
kindest regards to the brethren in the Missionary & Antislavery
rooms. The Lord be with you. C. G. Finney.
The convention was held at Boston on 23 October to form the American Abolition Society.
This sentence was omitted form the published version.