To Richard Butler

7 March 1870


[Manuscript in the hand-writing of Rebecca Finney, in Finney Papers, microfilm, roll 6, # 2116 (wrongly dated 1871 in the Index and Calendar of the Finney Papers). This was evidently a copy of the letter.]


Oberlin 7th March 1870

Richard Butler Esq.

Dear Sir, Yours of this date is rec'd.

I do not intend to have any controversy with you, but will

say a few words in reply to yours.

1. I said nothing in my pulpit relating to the action of

the school board except to promote peace. As to the pro-

priety of changing superintendents at a great expense to

the tax I said nothing. I only spoke of an accomplished

fact, & of that, only as a question of moral right.

The board changed the superintendent at a great ex-

pense to the tax payers & supporters of the school,

knowing that a very large & influential portion of those sup-

porters were strongly opposed to such action. When

requested to resign & submit the question to the people

whose interests were to be affected by the decision, they

refused to take the voice of the people. I thought this

wrong & a dangerous precedent to be allowed without

reproof. I said so, as a teacher of religion. I think so,

still, & however well the school may turn out, it will

not alter the morality of that act. I maintain that

no set of men have a right to Lord it over their con-

stituents, refusing to consult them, when so much

is at stake. The Board had the power, but not the right.

2. I hold that an editor, like other men, is bound to

get both sides of a controverted question before he commits

himself to one side, & if he does not, his influence must

be divisive & highly injurious.

3. I know that for a time it may be for your interest

to create a sensation by conducting a paper that will "pitch

into" every question of village controversy and give it

as much publicity as you can, but should it seem

best to you to take this course, I think you will make

a mistake at the least.

[page 2]

4 I do not object to your taking an interest in

our village affairs, but I do think it unwise for you to

assume that you understand us & our affairs well enough

at present to wiaely commit yourself on a partisan


5 If I understand you, you conversed on the subject

with those only who sustained the Board.

6. Perhaps I shall think that it was desirable to have a

change when I know all the facts. On that question I have

not formed a settled opinion. I take issue with the manner

of doing it, & I believe the spirit & manner of doing it, regardless

or in spite of the expressed remonstrance of the great

mass of those of their constituents who were most concerned in

the conduct, prosperity, & support of the school, was ill

judged, rash, & highly calculated to destroy the school

& produce in the community a sense of wrong

which it will be hard to forget.

7. Mr. Sedgwick is one of our most valued citizens.

Your paper & leader have gone before him to his new

field of labor. Your article has surprised & deeply

wounded not only him, but many of the best & most

valued & influential citizens of this place. If your

circulation were confined to this village where he is well

known it were different, but you have given

your views to the winds after having heard one side.

It would much surprise the people to be told that

Mr. Sedgwick's speech confirmed all you had


I write this privately, & as your friend. I pray

you receive it, as kindly as it is intended.

God bless you, My Dr. Sir.

C. G. Finney