by Andre E. Johnson
Director: The Henry McNeal Turner Project

I discovered Henry McNeal Turner by accident. While starting a seminar class in rhetorical criticism and trying to hone in on a dissertation topic, I ran across a speech delivered by Turner. He delivered the speech on the floor of the Georgia House of Representatives as the House debated whether African Americans could hold office in the state of Georgia. I remember reading the speech and wondering if anyone had studied Turner’s rhetoric.

However, there was a problem. Since Turner lived during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, it was my belief that texts to study Turner would be difficult to find. Turner, like many of his contemporaries during this time, spoke extemporaneously—not from notes or prepared texts. Moreover, unlike many other speakers during this time, Turner did not travel with a stenographer—or someone who could have written what Turner said for later publication. Going into my project, I only hoped there were enough texts to do a solid dissertation.

Imagine my surprise though when I found that Turner was one of the most prolific writers and speakers during his time and that much of his writings were not lost to history. Turner published copious amounts of material for the newspapers, magazines, and journals of his day. Turner lectured throughout the country and wrote extensively on his travels to Africa. In short, many would consider Turner a public intellectual in today’s definition of the term.

Sadly, many today have not heard of Turner. Indeed, it is as if Turner has been lost to history. I found myself always explaining to people who Turner was and why I thought, at least, he was so important. This is why this site exists. It is our intent to recover a lost voice within American and African American history. Henry McNeal Turner deserves recognition and it is our fervent hope that this site begins to serve that purpose.

Bishop Turner for Bryan: September 11, 1900

Bishop Turner for Bryan
New York Times: September 11, 1900

SAVANNAH, Ga., Sept. 10 – Bishop H. M. Turner of the African Methodist Church denies the report that he will take the stump in favor of the election of Mr. Bryan. In an interview to-day he says:

“I am not a Democrat, never have been one, and never expect to be, and I have no intention of stumping the country for Mr. Bryan. I dislike Mr. McKinley and the attitude which he has assumed toward the negro, and I intend to vote for Mr. Bryan in the belief that any change is better than none. This is no new change of heart with me. For sixteen years I have been cooling toward the Republican Party, ever since the decision of the Supreme Court which practically held that a negro had no civil rights From that date to this the decisions of the Supreme Court have been against the negro where a question of his political or civil rights was involved. I have heard of one instance where the Supreme Court held in the case of a negro from Texas that he was entitled to trial by jury of his peers, that is, one composed at least partly of negroes, but I have not verified this. The Supreme Court has practically decitizenized the negro and has nullified the amendments to the Constitution. I don’t know what Mr. Bryan’s views are on these questions which affect the negro race, but I believe that he is a man of sufficient honesty to use his influence in behalf of right and justice. Mr. McKinley has done nothing for the negro except to appoint a few of them to office.”

From “Must the Negro Go?,” by William Henry Thorne in A New Review of World-Literature, Society Religion Art and Politics. Decker Building, New York, 1899

From “Must the Negro Go?,” by William Henry Thorne in A New Review of World-Literature, Society Religion Art and Politics. Decker Building, New York, 1899

"There can be no question that the future of the negro race lies in Africa, the richest country on the face of the globe and the natural home of the negro. It has simply come down to extermination or emigration.

"Why? Simply from the fact that statistics show that the negro race is dying out. The several causes for this would make interesting reading were I at liberty to name them, but this I cannot do at this time.

"The negro race is not, in this country, growing healthier, wealthier, happier, wiser, or anything else which goes to make life worth living.

"God, in His infinite goodness and wisdom, made Africa for the negro and the negro for Africa. I believe this just as much as I do that the sun shines.

"Africa proffers the greatest possibilities on earth for the negro to emigrate to, that is if he has any idea of being anything this side of the day of general account giving.

"Even nature is invoking the American negro to return to his God-given home. The trade winds which once blew from three to four hundred miles out to sea, from the west coast of Africa, have mysteriously changed their course, and are now fanning the shores, moderating the equatorial climate, diminishing the heat and humidity, and driving away the death-dealing fevers and malaria.

"I believe this is simply God preparing Africa for the reception of her children who are suffering in this country, and who must return sooner or later.

"The colored race can never be more than hewers of wood and drawers of water in this country, the master race, the white race, will always reign supreme.

"John Temple Graves, a gentleman for whom I have the highest regard, said in one of his speeches that the negro would never be allowed to control in this country, even where he had a majority. He also said that the price of his peace was his subordination, and that never would the negro be recognized as a social or political equal. This being true, how can the negro ever hope in this country to attain the full stature of a citizen or a man?"

"Has the African emigration scheme met the approval of a majority of the negro race?" was asked.

"No indeed; but, on the contrary, a lot of ignorant negroes have opposed it from its very inception. They prate about the sickness of Africa and many other things of which they know nothing.

"The thoughtful and intelligent of the white race indorse the emigration policy, and it will yet prove a success and of untold blessing to the negro race. It will be remembered that not more than one-third of the children of Israel ever came out of Egypt. The other two-thirds were exterminated. This will be the final outcome of the American negro if he remains here."

Negro Emigration to Africa: From The Independent Vol. LI, January-December 1899

Negro Emigration to Africa
From The Independent Vol. LI, January-December 1899, pgs.2430-2432

To the Editor of the Independent:

In your editorial mention of the propositions of Bishop Turner and Bishop L.H. Holsey, D. D., I am represented as favoring the deportation of the American negroes to Africa. If you mean by deportation the compulsive exodus of my race to Africa en masse, I most respectfully beg to plead “not guilty.” I would be a fit subject for the insane asylum if my mind was so far out of equipoise. But that I am as an African emigrationist is lamentably true. I say lamentably, because nothing confronts the negro race in this country but emigration or extermination. The African race in this country can no more hope to stand up under the present pressure than a man could hope to shoulder and walk off with the Rocky Mountains. And any white man who thinks so has only to blacken his face and travel a few days through the country, and he will be surprised that any negro or African, who has good common sense, and is not a scullion by birth or environments during his childhood and youth, should ever dream of making himself and his posterity contented under the decisions of the United States Supreme Court, and a thousand subordinate judges and the endless quantity of legislative enactments and state constitutional amendments that have been passed to degrade and tie him and his posterity to the wheel that rolls in degradation. And lest you should be ignorant of some of these decisions and enactments, I forward you a few decreed by the United States Supreme Court, the most barbarous and inhuman that have emanated from any court of the last resort since man came into being. I have been reading history for forty-eight years, and I challenge any man living to produce the like in the chronicles of the world. You say the scheme is futile. I realize its futility without national help, which God will surely demand as its hand sooner or later. The negro has been too faithful to this country, its integrity, unity, perpetuity and its every interest, to be kicked aside without some remuneration. History records our fidelity to the white race in colonial times, during the Revolutionary War and in every struggle for existence from its birth to the present. And if it cannot accord us manhood existence. Like the Egyptians of old, it must lend us of its precious jewels to enable the better element of the race to go to themselves. I do not mean for all to go. All of the children of Israel did not go out of Egypt; according to the best authorities, possibly half of them remained and were lost, wither by extermination or were swallowed up in the waters of mankind. So it will be with the colored people of this country; all will never leave; but millions will, and millions are ready now if they had the facility. I know the sentiment of the colored people on the subject of emigration as no other man upon the American continent. I have barrels and barrels of letters upon that subject, while I have destroyed stacks and barrels of others that I had no convenient place to keep. If this country had ships plying between here and Africa, as England, France and Germany have, and we could go as cheaply, thousands would be leaving yearly.

During the last thirty years six millions of immigrants have come to this country and but few have paid over fifteen dollars each. The general price including children would average twelve dollars each. If we had such conveniences between here and Africa the emigration would be immense; not only from the South, but from the Northern and Western States. I know whereof I speak. Much absurdity has been attributed to the one hundred millions of dollars that we proposed to ask Congress for, to enable the better element of the colored race to leave the country. I see no reason for making it the subject of so much ridicule and laughter. According to one of your own New York papers, nine hundred millions of dollars have already been spent in bothering with Spain and her possessions; and billions will yet be spent before the question is settled. Had Congress appropriated on hundred and five millions of colored people money, seven millions of colored people could return to Africa at an average of fifteen dollars each; and soon hundreds of ships would be trading with the United States, and in two generations the hundred and five millions would be returned to the national treasury with a reasonable interest besides. I verily believe that a hundred millions of dollars invested in helping the better element of the negro race to establish a nation would be more profitable to this country than a billion spent on Spanish islands. It is only two hundred and fifty miles further from Savannah, Ga., or Charleston, S. C., to Liberia, Africa, than from New York to Liverpool, the way the ships run; and I believe when a direct line shall have been determined upon by the navigators, the distance will be almost equal. And if millions of immigrants can come from the Old World at an average of twelve dollars each, fifteen dollars should be amply sufficient to convey emigrants to Africa. And I believe at least a million are ready to pay that price now, if the ships were provided, either by Government aid or commercial intercourse. Much has been said and published about the negro not desiring to return to Africa, but let those who entertain such views start a line of steamers and offer emigrant rates to those who desire to return and they will see that every ship is crowded. Europe has over five hundred steamships plying between the United States and Europe, daily, the year round, and not one between the United States and Africa; so that all who desire to emigrate there have to go by Liverpool or Southampton, England, and pay passenger rates, which will cost one individual as much as it should cost the members of a large family. I have also read a number of scurrilous criticisms by the public press upon African emigration, because some of the colored people who have gone there in the past have returned and berated the country and magnified its fevers and other fatal diseases; but no one will attach any importance to such misrepresentations who has read the history of the early settlements of this country, Australia and South American States. But I conclude by saying: African emigration is the only remedy for disturbed condition of things in this country.

Atlanta, Ga.

Blames McKinley: July 6, 1899

Blames McKinley
The Topeka State Journal: July 6, 1899

New York, July 6.-The Sun says: A meeting of the foreign mission board of the African Methodist Episcopal church was held in Brooklyn on Friday. The board is composed of bishops of the church. Bishop H. N. Turner, of Georgia, discussed the race question, and in the course of an address he referred to President McKinley thus; “If we only had a man of strong force and purpose in the President McKinley chair, a man who had the courage to independently stand by his convictions; if we had some man like the president of France, our condition would have been ameliorated in the south. Much of the recent agitation would have been allayed.”

This was applauded by the bishops present. Yesterday afternoon the Brooklyn Eagle quoted Bishop Turner as saying before he left for his home in Georgia:

“In regard to what I said against President McKinley, I have nothing to hide. President McKinley is a fine man. He has many friends. I believe that he has as many friends among the Democrats of the South as among the Republicans, but he is a man lacking in force. He has not been true to our people when he might have been. By speaking a few words, by merely raising his hand, or in some way taking notice of us, he might have given recognition to the wrongs which we have been forced to endure. This he has not done. He has remained silent and passive. He has allowed the most awful crimes to be perpetrated against our race, when in some way he might have interfered.

“There have been great misrepresentations of this race question,” continued the bishop, speaking in his characteristic crisp way, clearing his throat between each sentence.

“I do not believe the people of the north understand the relationship that exists down south. It’s the bad element of both races which is responsible for most of the trouble. Between the best elements there is the closest tie of relationship. I recently preached in a white church, in which the white people took the gallery and tendered me and my people the church proper. Between the broad elements of both races there is no question. It is the vicious class which stirs strife.

“I do not believe in lynching in any form. I am eternally opposed to it. For the crime which prompts it I believe due punishment would come if the guilty ones were subjected immediately to a surgical operation. The case of mistaken identity is too frequent for lynching to be continued. Suppose at Cedartown, Ga., just two weeks ago, the more conservative element had not controlled, an innocent man who was afterward tried and acquitted. This surgical operation which I speak of would be just as effective as the rope.”

"Is the president's passivity on this lynching question the only grievance you people have against him," was asked.

“No, sir, it is not,” replied the bishop promptly. “We believe that the Negro should have been rewarded more for his services performed during the war with Spain. The colored man did splendid fighting. He proved himself valorous. In return some of my people wanted commissions. They claim that they have distributed a number of second lieutenancies among the Negroes. But is this so? Several colored regiments were organized toward the close of the war, but these have been all disbanded. Those who were given offices have been reduced to corporals and sergeants.

“We have had no recognition by the administration. Just now one of our regular colored regiments is leaving for the Philippines. Why does not the president give us enough officers to correspond to the fighting force of black men which represents this country? This is another great grievance which my people have against Mr. McKinley and the administration. I will say that this feeling of discontent is general among the blacks of all sections. It is a pity, too, for I believe President McKinley personally is a fine man, but he seems to have no force.”

Bishop Turner is a representative man of his race. He is the father of the colonization scheme that contemplates the ultimate return of the Negroes to Africa.

Bishop Turner's Ringing Letter: January 19, 1899

Bishop Turner’s Ringing Letter
Christian Recorder: January 19, 1899
ATLANTA, Ga., December 26th, 1898.

Ministers and Members of the Sixth Episcopal District, comprehending the four annual conferences in Georgia and the three in Alabama.

Dear Brethren, the birthday anniversary of Bishop Richard Allen, the first Episcopate of the A.M.E. Church, has been observed for a number of years as a day consecrated to the relief and assistance of our Publishing Department. You are hereby most respectfully requested to collect and tender a free-will offering to the sustentation of the same. Our chief literary institution should be free of debt and unembarrassed. Dr. Henderson, our great publisher, has been more generous with the ministry of our Church than any other General Manager in the history of the Connection. He has put all of our publications, including the Course of Study, within the reach of the poorest preacher, and Hymn Books and Disciplines within the reach of the poorest member. Any preacher who now fails to procure his Course of Study or purchase books that will enable him to preach God’s Word is a hypocritical tramp and was never made to pastor a church. A preacher who has the will can pick up old horseshoes, scraps of iron and brass and old bones, stray bottles and cow hoofs and sell to junk dealers and get money enough now to purchase his books. But Dr. Henderson can only offer these low rates upon the presumption that ALLEN’S DAY is to be made a success. As one of the Bishops, we have determined to admit no more men into conference who have not procured the requisite books and given them some attention; hence, we received no man on admission this year out of the six conferences we have held, nor do we intend to appoint any presiding elder who will not act as an agent in getting books for the ministry under him, but the men must supply him with the money to purchase their books.

Now, if the Sixth Episcopal District will be generous on Allen’s Day, Dr. Henderson will be liberal towards our candidates for admission, deacons’ and elders’ orders, for the preaching grade of our ministry, must be raised and ignorance will never do it; books procured and well studied alone will do it, and the cheapness of books, quarterlies and papers depend upon your action on Allen Day. February 14th is the day, but Sunday, February the 12th, will be observed. Let every pastor send something to Dr. T. W. Henderson, 631 Pine Street, Philadelphia.

H. M. Turner

Bishop Turner Opposes Fifth Year Term in the AME Church: September 22, 1898

Bishop Turner Opposes Fifth Year Term in the AME Church
Christian Recorder: September 22, 1898

DEAR BRETHREN­—Prompted by a sense of duty and propelled by the consciousness that silence would be a crime when the Church has placed us upon its watch-towers to give needed alarms, is our only excuse for addressing you this epistle.

Our last General Conference did more discreet legislation than possibility any two General Conferences in the history of the Church, Indeed it did more actual business, including the good and the bad, than any other General Conference ever approached. How much credit is due to the ruling of the Bishops, for this result, we leave for others to determine; but without any reflection upon the sainted Episcopal fathers, who have fallen asleep, we venture to say there never was a time when the Episcopal bench was so united upon measures which they believed to be for the interest of the church and so determined to exercise the controlling powers vested in them, for the good repute of the Church and race, as at the last General Conference. Every Bishop appeared to comprehend his prerogative under the law and dared to maintain them. Bishop Payne and Bishop John M. Brown were the only two Bishops, in our recollection, who had the courage and manhood to defy the General Conference when the fundamental law was encroached upon.

We are told, however, that Bishop Nazrey had the valor to face the General Conference and tell it that he was the guardian of the Constitution of the Church, at the General Conference, as much as he was the curator of the legislative laws at the Annual Conferences. This we cannot personally vouch for, as we never met Bishop Nazrey in but one General Conference, where we could only spend a few days, witnessing its deliberations, as we were a chaplain the United States Army and had to return to our post of duty. But at the last General Conference, for the first time in our recollection, every Bishop, without a single exception, realized the duty, the power and the responsibility of the Episcopacy, and neither hesitated, doubted or faltered in the discharge of what devolved upon his honest conviction. For just as there is no church without a minister, there cannot be a Conference without a Bishop, be that Conference General, Annual, District or Quarterly. While the Bishops, however, are not always present at the District and Quarterly Conferences, by reason of the vast multitude of responsibilities and demands upon their time and attention, yet they are present in the Presiding Elders, who are sub or Vicar Bishops, without Episcopal ordinations, as ordinations are not usually in demand at District and Quarterly Conferences. So, for example, when Bishop Tanner, Handy or Arnett is not at a District or Quarterly Conference, the Presiding Elder is there with power to preside, keep order, interpret law, give directions, try cases, license or suspend preachers, assign ministers to preach and do such things as a regular Bishop would do if present, for the Bishop is present in power.

At our last General Conference a resolution appears to have been adopted, or the report of the committee, which extended the term of a Presiding Elder or Pastor to five years in one district or to one church, unless the Bishop wishes to “lay violent hand upon him” and change him sooner, to use the language of a very prominent D.D. in our church. Listen, will you “Lay violent hands upon him.” Or in the language of others, “I have the right to remain five years in one charge.” See where this five year is leading to, will you? “I have the right to remain five years.”

According to that sentence, any removal, change, or invasion made by any Bishop, upon the five-year term, would, sure enough, make the hands of a Bishop, who would write another appointment “violent hands” and the Bishop a “violent” man, when the minister did not want to be moved.

We would not dare to question the authenticity or geniuses of the records of the last General Conference, for Dr. Reynolds was possibly the ablest secretary in every particular, that any of our General Conferences have had in forty years, and we doubt not in the history of the church. But when this five-year term came up in the House of Bishops, not one had any recollection or knowledge of when the five-year law passed the General Conference, including Bishop Armstrong and Emory, now deceased, Bishop Tanner was the only one absent. It is very likely, however, that it was slipped through the General Conference on the last day, when forty and fifty men at times were standing on the floor, clamoring for recognition in stentorian tones, scarcely exceed by peals of thunder, for the two last days of our General Conference session was pandemonium, if clangor, hubbub, whoops and lung roar can produce it. When the House of Bishops met to pass upon the Discipline, before it went to press, we tried to persuade them to overrule it, as they did some other things of far minor importance, and which they had the right to do, under the genius of our Ecclesiastical Polity, and a special act which passed the General Conference in 1872. And if we must be frank, which they did do, and left the four-year law still existing. But after they had adjourned, a majority of them wrote to Bishop Lee; the editor of the New Discipline, to let the five-year term go in and let the General Conference take the responsibility, and thus it appears in our present book of Discipline. We, however, were not one of the Bishops who so wrote to Bishop Lee, for we were not willing to take such a risk, as we knew then, and as we know now, it is destined to stagnate and seriously injure our church…..Much is being said about the unrest, the discontent and unsettled condition of our ministry, which we are very sorry to say is too true. We are bold to admit that there are more grumbling and croaking among the preachers than at any previous period since we had an existence. It began in 1860, when the General Conference at Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, passed a law extending the old two two-year term so as to allow a Bishop to return a minister the third year when he was building a new church or remodeling an old one. But a certain brother who was made a compiler of the book of Discipline some years afterward, left out the provision of the building condition and made the law read three years, without any additional legislation on the part of the General Conference authorizing him to do so. No one raised any opposition, however, and in 1880 the General Conference modified the three year provision, which never was the law, and allowed the Bishops to return a pastor the fourth year, upon the condition only, that he was building a new church, and his building a new church, and his return should be adjudged indispensable.

But when the Discipline came out in print, though some strange manipulation or transmogrification, the four-year term was found the same, minus conditions. Of course no one is to blame, we presume it just happened so, possibility it was a typographical error, but we assert, upon whatever reputation we have for veracity, that neither the three years or four year term for a minister to remain the Pastor of one church ever passed, at any General Conference, without the modification referred to. We mean, that in both instances, the obligation of the minister in connection with the building was the proviso, upon which he might remain for a longer time. Now, by some mysterious legerdemain, some political jugglery the fifth year for Pastors and Presiding Elders both, becomes a right, for every Presiding Elder and Pastor in the A.M.E. Church the world over. And for a Bishop to make any change under that time is to “lay on violent hands.” The A.M.E. Church is quadrennialized to all intents and purposes. Bishops four years, publishers four years, editors four years, Secretaries of our Missionary, Sabbath school, education, church extension, and indeed all the general officers of our respective departments, as well as our financial systems are all limited to four years. But when we reach the exalted status, of Pastors and Presiding Elders they must not be touched under five years, for they have certain “rights” that “violent hands” must not cross or invade.

A Bishop is appointed by the General Conference to an Episcopal District, and may find Presiding Elders and Pastors, all settled in their districts, stations, and circuits; and he remains there four years, and goes up to the next General Conference, and the General Conference sends him elsewhere, and leaves the Presiding Elders and Pastors right where he found them four years ago, unless some of the congregations, should accidentally, make it too hot for some of them to remain. For, if the Bishop attempts to change any of them, who do not wish to be changed, he is “laying violent hands upon them.” Bishops and General Officers are, therefore, of secondary consideration. True, Bishop Salter and, we believe, some others, interpret this new law to mean when a Presiding Elder serves a district five consecutive years he cannot be reappointed Presiding Elder anywhere till he has pastored a church for a length of time. And we are further told that the meaning of the new law is that when a new Pastor has served a large city for five years, he must go out in the woods and take charge of a mission or a small circuit. We believe that is right; that is really Methodism. The great Dr. Punshon, before whom all England, Scotland, Wales and America bowed, and nobility and even royalty itself hung upon his jeweled lips with wonder and amazement, left the great Mammothian churches of London and took appointments to circuits, and rode them without a sigh, and drew thousands and tens of thousands wherever he preached, and ended his earthly career as a circuit rider. Bishop Ward took us from a church of fifteen hundred members and sent us to a mission, where there was only one member, and in seven months we had a spacious new church up, with three hundred and fifty members, while it is now one of the finest brick churches in the connection; with over a thousand in attendance.

But this law does not so read, and if the Bishops were to proceed on that line there would be a flood of confusion in the church, sure enough, for our big preachers would kick like donkeys, and the howl of “violent hands” and an evil heart combined would be vociferated with double intensity. Moreover, how many preachers are there in the A.M.E. church who are able to give their congregations a new sermon twice every Sabbath, to say nothing of afternoons, which is required in many churches, and should be required by all; and on Wednesday or Thursday nights, when every pastor, who is not too lazy, will deliver a short sermon or religious lecture to his people? Rev. Dr. Hinton, one of the ablest white ministers in the country says, “That most of the white pastors preach out all they know in one year.” And all we know that many of our ministers preach out all they know in six months, and some, we apprehend, can get through in three months, for different texts do not imply a different sermon, in scores of instances, as we all know. So that after six months, or a year at most, the preaching of hundreds are more repetitions or rehashes. Our people are so constituted that at the end of two years they are generally tired of one man, whatever may be his pulpit ability. There are exceptions, we grant. A few may last three years when they have congregations who will be satisfied with the preacher’s imaginations and fancy, and the story of the long white robe, golden slippers, and starry crowns. But we ask in all fairness and candor, is that preaching the gospel? Does that elevate and enlighten the people? Does not our intellectual status demand instructive sermons? Sermons that take in every phase and duty of life, comprehending hygienic instruction and the whole circle of pantology. We grant that religious sauce is very enjoyable, especially when it comes from an honest and conscientious illiterate preacher, and in some instances an ignorant preacher. But how long do we enjoy it from a man of reputed learning? Everybody knows that the marvelous growth of Methodism had been due to a rapid change of pastors. In the language of Bishop McTyeire of the M.E. Church South, “Stationary Pastors have blighted the growth of their denominations.” According to the five-year term, it will take twenty years for a minister to get to four churches, and to change him often is to “Lay violent hands upon him.” When the two year term was the law of our Church, the ministries who were on country circuits, missions and small charges could hope to get to the cities at an early date, and they would study as hard if they had work in the woods as anywhere else, because there was a prospect of larger appointments. But now, since they see that a few bug men can monopolize all the first-class appointments and remain at one church a quarter of a lifetime, when we have so few first-class appointments, compared to the number of our intelligent ministers here is but little incentive for the “common preacher” to try to be anything. And it will kill the aspiration and hope of the men on smaller charges. This five year term means the aggrandizement of a few and the degradation of the many (stultification to say the least) and we wish to say to what is called the mediocre preacher, if you love your church and have a concern for yourself, your wife and children, you will not vote for any man to go as a delegate to the next General Conference who will not openly pledge himself to vote to limit the time to two years, three years, at most. There may be pressing contingencies when the fourth year might appear to be an indispensable necessity, but where that necessity for the fourth year is in demand once, an earlier change will be in demand fifty times, if not a hundred times. Moreover, should it happen that the fifth year term is so indispensable now and then, that the connection would suffer by a change of Pastors, let the entire House of Bishops be required by law to give their unanimous consent, then every minister will believe that such a necessity was absolute?

We know that the advocates of the fifth year term are ever ready to proclaim that no one has attempted to limit or curtail the appointing powers of the Bishops, their godly judgment is still implacable and inexorable, they can change the ministers every year if they wish, and other like expressions. And thus they try to pimp and pander to the vanity of the Bishops on the one hand, and beguile and deceive, through an oily tongue sophistry, the “common preacher” and the laity upon the other, when they know such an argument is a species of selfish hypocrisy, so glaringly deceptive that they giggle over it in private among themselves.

Bishops are nothing but men, they were once laymen then local preachers, then Deacons, and then Elders, and finally they were ordained Bishops by other Bishops of like pedigree and lineage; because they got votes enough to elect them, and are no more personally, than other Christian gentlemen, while they are sacerdotal, we believe, and in many instances yield to what their better judgment disapproves of, for the sake of temporary peace and quiet, when bored and beleaguefed by contumacious preachers and enthusiastic devotees, when the whole thing is a masquerade of self and any man who has entered the Christian Ministry to serve self, and not God and his church, is certainly out of his place. A few years ago, after a minister in our District had served a wealthy church for three years, we sent him to another very excellent charge and appointed his predecessor Pastor of that church, and when the former came to us to enter his protest against being thus appointed, he gave as a chief reason that he could not live here. We told him in reply that the other brother had lived there with his wife and six times as many children as he had. He replied by saying, “Yes, but it does not take as much money to run him as it does me, he is a commoner and I am a gentleman, and I need twice as much to live on as he does.” This is a fine conception of the Christian Ministry, which calls for perpetual sacrifices and self-denials. Does anyone believe that this brother was ever called by God to preach? We do not, and he will have doubt about it himself, before he reads this article, for he will read all we are writing now. Distinction in our ministerial circles does not consist largely of being great preachers, able lecturers, learned authors, reputable poets, profundity in history or familiarity with science and philosophy, but distinction among us, usually means to get to be the Pastor of a large church or to be appointed a Presiding Elder or get some ecclesiastical office by a majority vote, and this, according to our latter-day conception, entitles us to exalted rank the balance of life. And in many instances if a Bishop takes what he presumes to be a strong man, and sends him to a weak charge, to give strength to that weakness and double and quadruple the membership, the Bishop is to be saluted with insulting letters all the year, while the question propounded to every passerby will be, “Do you know what the Bishop has got against me?” “Have you any idea why I have been so miserably treated?” “Can you tell why the Bishop is trying to starve me to death?” when possibly the very minister had been getting large salaries for several years, and if he fails to save a little for a rainy day, it was his own folly, for the itinerant ministry itself implies change of locality and mutation in support. We will not speak for the other Bishops, but we do say for yourself, that nearly every time we take a man from what is called a good appointment (a misnomer) and send him where he can draw the people, build up a church and make other good appointments, we are charged with having something personal against him; such as the ungodly and wicked spirit of selfishness, that has taken possession of our latter-day ministry.

If the Bishop had the courage when a strong minister has served three and four years in a first-class appointment, to send him a few years to build up weak points, and give chance, we would have more first-class appointments and more strong ministers. But the policy that has prevailed in our church for the last twenty years, especially since the four-year term has come into existence, is building up ministerial aristocracy on the one hand, and ministerial scullionism on the other. The genius of the Methodist church is, that we are all equals, but our practice for many years has just been the reverse, and the only way for the so-called little men to get to the front, is for the big men to die or get killed. And if the little men are going to send delegates to the General Conference that will perpetuate the five year term, they must expect to remain little, and as one of the Bishops we protest against being bothered and besieged about firstclass appointments, pleading as a reason that you are graduates, or have had school advantages, that you are the equals and superiors to this big man and that big man, who are forever kept in large appointments; that you have built one, and would never build one if he lived a hundred years; and all that other big man ever did was to ruin churches and plunge them into debt thousands of dollars and never paid a cent, while you swept this debt off and that debt off, etc. etc.

If the common ministers or the average preachers are going to vote delegates to the next General Conference who will legislate against them, they must take the consequences and grumble at themselves, and not be grumbling at us, as one of the Bishops. A number of ministers will read this letter, know what impudent and scurrilous letters they have written to us, both in this District and others, because we could not give them a larger charge who we had none to give. If changing the big men is to be regarded as “laying violent hands upon them,” or degrading them through personal animosity, if we dare to send them to smaller appointments, for the purpose of building up more large appointments, then we need old Methodist legislation.

All this unrest, discontent, grumbling and fault is due to the long terms, which for a Bishop to interfere with (unless a riot breaks out in the church) is to class him as a personal enemy. And no Bishop wishes to be placed in that category if he can avoid it. And as we said before, Bishops are only men and are as susceptible of prejudices pro and con as the Elders are, and may desire at times to show extra favors to a brother, as much as Elders, and as the voters are lawmaking powers they should have sense enough to protect themselves by the law, even against the prejudices of a Bishop, and if they do not, when the power is in their hands, they should stop grumbling and fault finding.

Furthermore, if the five-year term must stand, then decency, respect, common courtesy and reason, require that you send delegates to the next General Conference that will extend the term of a Bishop over the same district for ten years. We mean to give him twice five years, so he can exercise a little judgement, once or twice, while he is in charge of a district without being reproached, otherwise, we are bold to say, we can do all we can to induce the House of Bishops to take the assignments away from the General Conference, which the Bishops can do it at any moment they are ready and will be foolish if they fail to do it. The General Conference has no power to make out the appointments for the Bishops anyway, and those who are dead knew it, and everyone living knows it; they submitted to it, because most of them thought it was a good expedient and rather liked it. We favored it before we were a Bishop, and have favored it ever since, and will continue to favor it, unless we are to be made the inglorious victims of humiliation, on account of selfish ambition.

The five-year advocates present the plea that the A.M.E. Church recently enacted a law which permits a Bishop to return a pastor in six years. They forget that the A.M.E. Church and the M.E. Church are dissimilar in a variety of respects. Their Bishops alternate and a different Bishop goes to annual Conference each consecutive year, and this in the language of one of the M.E. Bishops to us: “Is an antidote to the evil of such legislation,” for the M.E. Bishops, or a majority of them, are as much opposed to that provision as the writer is, so one told us, and have an understanding not to respect it. Unless it interferes with some great revival or wonderful ingathering of souls, an idea that never floated through the brains of the authors of the fifth year law, which was slipped, if not stolen, through our last General Conference. Besides, the conditions of our ministry greatly differ, and on this point, we could say more than we will risk, as we shall not furnish fuel to burn our own toes. We will simply say, the analogy is so variant that a comparison would be ridiculous. But the M.E. Church has Bishops who come around every few years, and break up all these long terms, and in many instances take the big city preachers and send them out on circuits, and very often on missions, so that the aristocratic minister in the M.E. Church is a man, whose wonderful powers as a preacher, author, and worker bring him into great demand, and the preacher himself is not the judge, as they have got to be in our Church.

The Bishops pass in judgement upon them, when they meet in council, and determine upon what shall be done with those of extraordinary gifts and learning, possibly to an extent that we do not; while the Bishops of the A.M.E. Church are searching in their deliberations, and we are pleased to say, endeavor to take in every want, every need and project, every measure that will enlarge our Zion.

We grant that the old Bishops were practically compelled to keep the few scholarly, eloquent and successful ministers they had in the large churches most all the time, because men of learning were so scarce, and thus they were compelled to send them from one large church to another, to satisfy the demands of the large and intelligent congregations and hold our members, from running around to other churches where, in many instances, they could possibly find scholarly preachers, but such a necessity no longer exists, as we have educated men and doctors of divinity in great abundances some of our ablest pulpit powers are on circuits and missions. Men, in many instances, who can preach some of our aristocratic ministers blind, and take more members in the church in one year than many of our “stuck-ups” can in four years. And when you come down to talk about rights, we assert that these men who are to be kept in small charges by reason of the five-year term, have a right to expect a large charge a few times during life, to say the least, and as some of our brethren wish to appeal to the white Methodists for examples, we appeal to them for examples also. Everyone who knows anything about the white Conferences, know that they are regularly taking their ministers from large churches and sending them out on small circuits and missions. We saw Bishop Galloway less than a year ago make one of the big ministers of Georgia cry and beg ten thousand pardons upon his knees in open Conference for neglecting to stay upon a poor mission, upon the plea that he could not support his wife and children as they had been customarily supported, and even then, had Bishop Galloway not plead for him, the Conference would have expelled him, for the ordinary ministers of the Conference appeared to be anxious to vote him out; for some said that he had as much right to be sent to a small charge as they had. Moreover, how under heaven is the Bishop to give all of his aristocratic ministers' large appointments forever and give others who have studied for years and equipped themselves with any responsibility, large appointments too? No Bishop can do it. Christ himself could not do it. Hence the discontent, the grumble, the fault finding, and in some instances the rebellion. We expelled thirteen of the Conference members in the Sixth Episcopal District last fall or rebellion and rebellious attempts. For as long as we are a Bishop, rebels against the A.M.E. Church must be, and will be expelled, nor will they ever re-enter the ministry under us, and no other A.M.E. Bishop if we can prevent it. For in our opinion it is the gravest crime in creation. If we understand the scriptures there would have been no devil but for “rebellion” and rebellionism and devilism is one and the same in heaven, earth or hell. All the wars, carnage, death and eternal damnation is the product of rebellion, and while we should justly hate rebellion for its curses and blight, we should not legislate laws that will make rebellion a temptation. And the fifth-year term will certainly do it as our stage of development.

We judge that a large number of ministers and lay delegates who were members of the last General Conference will say, Bishop Turner, is fighting our possible re-election to the next General Conference. We deny it, unless you are going to support the fifth year term and tie that rule upon our Church to please a few dignitaries, and degrade the thirty ministers who vote for every delegate but if you are going to tie chains and forge fetters to prevent the other brethren from rising to the top, unless the Bishops do it in defiance of your wrath, criticism, abuse, and calumniation, then we are bold to say we are against you, and, if we had our way, we would tell your constituents to leave you at home until the blast of the resurrection trump. We love our Church better than we do any layman, any minister and any Bishop in it, or will ever be in it, and, discovering that wire-pulling has already set in by certain Presiding Elders and prominent ministers, we write this communication at this early date, before too many of the voters commit themselves before God and man, as delegates, they will vote to do away with that fifth year provision.

Before the two-year law was abolished, petitions to the Annual Conferences were few and rare, but every time the term limit is extended for Pastors, petitions on the one hand and protestations on the other, have been increased.

Till now, not a barrel in the country will hold the communications sent to the Bishop at some of the Annual Conferences some commending the Pastor in the highest terms, and others painting him in colors so stigmatic that anyone would wonder why he was not in the penitentiary. These communications, if preserved as they should be, will make the future historian of our church stand against at the generosity of our day, and tempt them to believe that we were all participants in the crimes charged, when in fact nine-tenths of the allegations are false. We are just as proud of our big ministers as any man on earth, we love the ground they walk upon, but when it involves a monopoly of the leading churches, to the exclusion of the aggregate quantum, then we are for the underdog. However, if the voters are satisfied, and are willing to retard the growth of our great Church, they can go on, we will soon be dead and then you can wrangle it out among yourselves, but we deprecate the selfish spirit, that would hectocotylize our ministry, and degrade the appointment system by making it a grab game, which is sure to result in the Lions getting the first choice and the jackals getting what is left.

Just as we were about to close this epistle, if we may so call it; the following letter was brought from the office. This brother, to say the least, merits favorable consideration, and thousands belong to the same class if they do have to beg for recognition. We will not give his name at present, but the letter is here for inspection;


My Dear Father—I have been in the Conference twenty years and have built twelve churches and have bought two for the A. M. E. Church, which makes fourteen churches I have added to the connection. Not a link in my ministerial life has been broken. I have always obeyed the laws of the church and no Bishop will say I ever grumbled about an appointment, poor as most of them have been. Now I want to ask you at our next Conference please give me an appointment among the good class of churches. In twenty years I have never asked for an appointment before. Should you make me a Presiding Elder I will see and help to build churches which most of our Presiding Elders give no thought to. I have built a good church on my circuit this year. Please, Bishop, consider my request. Your son in ministry. P.C.

It is to give this class of minister among other things even-handed justice, that makes us condemn the five-year term with such virulence. We notice that it is ‘no uncommon thing to hear the A.M.E. Church called of late, the Apostolic Church. All right, we endorse the name for we believe our church is that to all intents and purposes. But if we are going to be apostolic we must emulate the apostles in deed as well as in word. The apostles fired the world by a change of location, they remained nowhere long enough to become rusty, stagnant, common and useless. And the reason Methodism has outgrown all other churches since apostolic times is because it pursued the same evangelic policy. Paul remained at no point over two years, nor does history record an instance in our recollection where any Apostle, Prophet, see or evangelist ever did.

In conclusion, if the time limit were brought back to two years, there would not be one-fifth part of the suspicion and scandal that our Church has been afflicted with in recent years. Hundreds of men cannot behave themselves and command the respect and confidence of the people over two years. The third and fourth year is stagnation, retrogression and a blighting apathy is a sequence.

The sooner such men, and there is a host of them, deliver their message and pass on, the better for our name, our church and for our God.

While this appeal to the voters for delegates is long and has no systematic arrangement, we will conclude it nevertheless, as we shall have much more to say on the same subject.

H. M. Turner.