• Ohio Anti-Slavery Society Minister, Wife Help Friends Find A Church Amid Conservative Sentiments

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    JAMES A. THORNE was born on January 20, 1813 in Augusta, KY, the son of Arthur Thorne, a slaveholder with a flourishing mill.  James received his education at Augusta College and became a supporter of the abolitionist cause. His decision to become an abolitionist put him at odds with his slaveholding father, who initially disowned him.  The two later reconciled and the senior Thorne emancipated his slaves between 1834 and 1838. James later entered Lane Seminary in Cincinnati and took part in debates on the slavery question.  He left Lane for Oberlin College in 1836.  After his graduation he and J. Horace Kimball, editor of the Herald of Freedom, were commissioned by the Anti-Slavery Society to observe and report on the effects of emancipation in the West Indies. The account was published in 1838 under the title Emancipation in the West Indies.  Thorne later taught at Oberlin and became a member of the board of trustees. Thorne wrote for various anti-slavery papers and served as a special correspondent for the Cleveland Leader.  He also worked as an agent of the American Missionary Association in England and Scotland, raising money for freed people. Thorne was also a clergyman in Cleveland for many years at the First Congregational Church.

    Offering two ALSs, 10 pp total, written on the eve of the Civil War, one from Thorne and the other from his wife, Ann, to Dr. and Mrs. Jacob Butler White regarding their leaving church membership in First Congregational Church, where Thorne was the minister.  The Whites had moved to Illinois and are in search of a new church to attend.  However, they apparently are in area that Mrs. Thorne refers to as “conservative policy of the churches,” which is likely a reference to pro-slavery sentiment.  While Illinois played an important role in the abolitionist and pro-Union movements, there were heavy elements of resistance.


    From Cleveland, September 19, 1860, from Thorne. “I received your note by Miss Wescott asking for a letter of dismission and recommendation, which I accordingly enclose…I am happy to learn that you have found a church…that promises to be pleasing to you, though not so convenient as might be desired. I trust it may be profitable & that it may afford you opportunities of doing good. From your friends here, you leave what is going on among us.  Our church is prospering in many respects. The schools were never in so good condition. Our business prospects are brightening. We have much to be thankful for…J.A. Thorne.”


    Thorne’s wife strikes a different tone, offering sympathy for the White’s in their search.


    Ann, writes on April 9, 1860, to White’s wife, in small part, “…I was very glad to hear from you & to receive…an account of how you are situated in what seems to be your far off western home…I can picture to myself the town & its inhabitants. To you as a New Englander, the crude condition of everything in place & people must be exceedingly trying…You must very much miss the social & religious privileges to which you have been accustomed…It requires somewhat of the Missionary spirit to reconcile an intelligent Christian to a residence of newly settled places at the west…Nothing but the conviction that God calls us to be so self-denying as life…permits us to testify our love to Him, enlarges the sphere of our usefulness & uses us as the humble instruments of good to His causes can make us contented…I sympathize with you…in the trials you experience growing out of the existing state of things in the several church organizations in the place where your lot is cast. It would seem as if you could not feel at home in any one of them…It would almost seem as if you ought to stand aloof from them & thus testify your disapprobation of their course…You would no doubt find it more pleasant to be associated with the Congregational Church of which you speak than with either of the others…Mr. Thorne although quite decided in the opinion that under all ordinary circumstances it is better for persons to unite with some church in the place where they live, yet thinks that there are cases where a different course may be allowed. Yours he is disposed to regard as one of those cases. The conservative policy of the churches in Butler as manifested in their silence relative to the prevailing sins of the day as also the fact not to be altogether overlooked that they are none of them of the same order with the church of which you are now members, he thinks constitutes good & sufficient reasons for withholding your connection from them…A.A. Thorne”


    Folds, light toning. Letters are very readable with one cover, apparently having contained both letters.


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