Send Back the Money!: The Free Church of Scotland and American Slavery

By Iain Whyte

An investigation of Scotland’s role in the abolition of slavery, focussing on the Free Church of Scotland schism over funding from American slave states.

ISBN: 9780227173893


When the Free Church broke from the Church of Scotland in 1843 they sought money and support from inside and outside Scotland. A delegation which went to America in 1844 brought some money back gifted by sympathisers in the Southern slave states. A huge row broke out amongst abolitionists in Scotland and America and a campaign to ‘Send Back the Money’ was launched.

‘Send Back the Money!’ is a thorough and gripping examination of a fascinating and forgotten aspect of Scottish and American relations and Church history, recreating a seminal episode in the history of nineteenth-century abolitionism that divided families, communities, and the Free Church itself.

Iain Whyte’s examination of the Free Church of Scotland’s early involvement with American Presbyterianism reveals the ethical furore caused by a Church wishing to emancipate itself from the domination of a state-sanctioned established religion. The Free Church therefore found a ready affinity with those oppressed elsewhere, but subsequently found itself financially supported by the Southern slave states of America. Whyte sensitively handles this inherent contradiction in the political, ecclesiastical, and theological institutions, while informing the reader of the roles of charismatic characters such as Thomas Chalmers and Frederick Douglass, key individuals who did much to shape contemporary culture with action, great oratory, and rhetoric. The author adroitly draws parallels from the twentieth century onwards, leading the reader to a fuller and more nuanced understanding of the historic and topical issues within global Christianity, and the contentious topic of slavery.

‘Send back the Money!’ throws light upon nineteenth-century culture, the British and American Abolitionist movements, and the ecclesiastical politics of the day, and is written in a clear and engaging style that makes the book ideal for both scholars and general readers.

Additional information

Dimensions 234 × 156 mm
Pages 176

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Trade Information JPOD

About the Author

Iain Whyte is the President of the Scottish Church History Society and an Honorary Post Doctoral Fellow at the Centre for Diaspora Studies, University of Edinburgh for his work in the history of slavery and abolition. He is the author of Scotland and the Abolition of Black Slavery 1756-1838.


List of Illustrations
Introduction: A Church with Freedom but no Money

1. A Delegation Warmly Received
2. The Elephant in the Room
3. Chalmers and Smyth – Tensions across the Atlantic
4. Keeping a Lid on the Volcano
5. ‘Douglass has blawn sic a flame’
6. War, Drink, the Sabbath, and the 1846 Assembly
7. Ballads and Broadsheets
8. The Irish take a Firmer Stand
9. Evangelicals and Abolitionists – Houses Divided
10. The Last Batt les and Hunting ‘the Brave Macbeth’
11. A Passing Storm in a Teacup or the Shape of Things to Come?



Endorsements and Reviews

Iain Whyte’s study of this little known episode in Scottish history makes for an engrossing read. … Popular ballads and songs, many written in a lively and earthy Scots, contrasted dry theological argument. Dr Whyte captures the excitement and emotion of these times. … excellent …
Dr James Robertson, University of Glasgow

An accessible, scholarly, and enjoyably-readable monograph … A fine miniature of the perils of moral decision-making.
David Cornick, in Reform Magazine, April 2013

In Send Back the Money! Iain Whyte has pulled off the difficult feat of making a piece of pure historical research amusing as well as enlightening. Reading his book, we can hear those passionate Nineteenth Century voices and their echoes today.
Richard Holloway, author and former Bishop of Edinburgh in the Scottish Episcopal Church

Iain Whyte gives us a book here whose absorbing story echoes far beyond its immediate space and time of Scotland and the USA before the American Civil War. It is a lesson, often tragic, of the international demands on the conscience of moral men and women, and the perpetual temptation to ignore cruelty beyond our own horizons. But God knows no frontiers.
Owen Dudley Edwards, Reader at the University of Edinburgh, Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh

Thank you, Iain Whyte. Through the clarity of your history lesson you have reduced our wriggle-room!
Jim Wilkie, in Coracle, 2013

Dr Whyte has taken his research on an obscure and not very creditable part of Free Church history and given it a relevance for today in a book which is short enough not to scare the non-historian, readable, well-founded in original sources, thought-provoking and much to be welcomed by general reader and historian alike.
Andrew Muirhead, in The Innes Review, Vol 64, No 2

This book not only explains the context and the evolution of public opinion with regards to slavery in both countries, but the author situates as well many other events related with the Free Church, the American Presbyterianism, and religions in general, following the methods of comparative studies, in the tradition of Atlantic Studies. Send Back the Money! The Free Church of Scotland and American Slavery is neither a mere history book, nor entirely focused on theology; it is rather an interdisciplinary account about how political, ethnical, religious ideas were confronted with the issue of slavery during an epoch when it was considered as ‘normal’ and even ‘necessary’.
Yves Laberge, Université Laval, in Theological Book Review, Vol 25, No 1

A short, narrative and interesting tale of a few years in the history of a new branch of the Presbyterian church in Scotland, yet the story develops into a multi-layered tale featuring well-known international speakers, major ethical dilemmas, and the fickleness of popular support … Overall, with this study Whyte continues to cement his position as the historian of Scottish anti-slavery.
Paula E. Dumas, in Journal of Scottish Historical Studies, Issue 1, 2014

By drawing attention to this little-known episode Whyte undermines hagiographic depictions of the Free Church’s struggles, pointing to the politicking which lay beneath the Church’s avoidance of the candid abolitionism … this is a balanced and well-researched account which sheds new light on Scotland’s complex relationship with slavery.
Valerie Wallace, in The Journal of Ecclesiastical History, Vol 65, Issue 4